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P.E.I. political parties offer differing views in addressing mental health issues

Wayne Ellsworth and Leah Kinch, president and vice-president of the Tignish Health Co-op Centre, welcomed a Liberal Party of P.E.I. promise to open a mental health walk-in clinic at the health centre and a commitment of long-term funding for the facility.
Wayne Ellsworth and Leah Kinch, president and vice-president of the Tignish Health Co-op Centre, welcomed a Liberal Party of P.E.I. promise to open a mental health walk-in clinic at the health centre and a commitment of long-term funding for the facility. - Eric McCarthy
TIGNISH, P.E.I. —

This is the next in an ongoing series on district profiles and election issues that will run in print and online up until April 22.


Dianne Young remains hopeful whoever forms government after the April 23 provincial election will find money in the budget that will enable the Lennon Recovery House in Rustico to open its doors this year.

Lennon House, in the former Belcourt Centre, is named after Young’s son, Lennon, who suffered from mental health and addictions and took his own life in 2013.

Young and a board of directors are nearing the end of renovations to the former Belcourt Centre, but she said they need funding to finish furnishing and staffing the facility so that they will be in position to offer supports that she finds are severely lacking for people in P.E.I. who have mental health and addictions issues.

“They do. I know they do,” Young responded when asked if she believes the new government would have the will and the power to enable a facility such as Lennon House to provide healing help.

She said methadone is a start for people with addictions issues, but that alone is not enough.

Island NDP leader Joe Byrne feels his party has a different solution. He said providing secure and long-term and affordable housing and providing decent incomes “is essential to creating a space where people can actually begin to address their mental health needs.”

Without such supports, he suggests, people are put under more supports, even having to choose between food and medication.

Liberal leader Wade MacLauchlan was in Tignish on Friday to unveil his party’s plan for addressing mental health and addictions, offering $100 million for new supports for mental health and addictions over the next five years, including recruitment of new mental health professionals and new mobile mental health care. Provincewide mental health walk-in clinics, establishing innovative partnerships and expanded treatment and housing options for youth in recovery are also part of the Liberal plan.

Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker said having a system that will respond appropriately and quickly when someone is in a mental health crisis is required.

“We have a real gap when it comes to continuity of care for people who are struggling with mental health issues,” he said.

Bevan-Baker said it would be unrealistic for his party claim to be able to fix all the mental health problems in one mandate, but he suggested the Greens could start down a path to make sure the supports for people are there.

While he praised the Liberal government’s introduction of in-school wellness teams, he said they are short of resources and in some cases are at the expense of other mental health programs.

But early intervention, he suggests, is key, saving the health system money and avoiding in human misery later in life.

For adults in crisis, he suggests, it comes down to more money and more supports.

No one from the Progressive Conservative Party was available for an interview by deadline but in its platform, the PCs promise to immediately replace the Hillsborough Hospital as its number one infrastructure priority.

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