Needs in both places

It is a shame that this has be­come an ei­ther/or scrap over lim­ited funds

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - BY SU­SAN HART­LEY Dr. Su­san Hart­ley is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and critic for health and well­ness, Green Party of P.E.I.

The #HowManyWade Cam­paign, cou­pled with the re­cent cov­er­age in the lo­cal me­dia and by the Univer­sity of King’s Col­lege Jour­nal­ism school, is bring­ing the re­al­ity of men­tal health needs to the fore­front of our con­ver­sa­tions and con­cerns.

Vul­ner­a­ble Is­landers have found the courage to pub­licly speak up and talk about their fears, anx­i­eties and dis­tress. All Is­landers de­serve this is­sue to be part of a big­ger conversation than what is cur­rently hap­pen­ing in govern­ment.

I work in the men­tal health sys­tem in P.E.I. I choose to work out­side of the gov­ern­ment­funded pro­grams for many rea­sons and rec­og­nize the priv­i­lege I have in be­ing able to speak out with­out concern of reper­cus­sions. My in­de­pen­dence also al­lows me to be an ad­vo­cate for in­di­vid­u­als in the sys­tem who are not re­ceiv­ing ap­pro­pri­ate, eth­i­cal or timely care.

In this role I have had the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with many pro­fes­sion­als and bu­reau­crats within the pub­licly funded sys­tem. At times I have been im­pressed by the will­ing­ness of bu­reau­crats, physi­cians, and front­line work­ers to go out of their way to make my clients’ sit­u­a­tions just a bit bet­ter.

Too of­ten, how­ever, there has been an un­will­ing­ness to col­lab­o­rate or even en­gage in dis­cus­sion re­gard­ing a mu­tual client’s needs. Most con­cern­ing is when well-in­ten­tioned, com­pas­sion­ate and ded­i­cated men­tal health work­ers are asked to of­fer in­ter­ven­tion that is be­yond their scope of ex­per­tise be­cause there just isn’t any­one else; or when clients are seen on an ur­gent ba­sis and there isn’t a pro­gram for com­pre­hen­sive or fol­low-up care to of­fer them.

To be hon­est, this doesn’t feel like a sys­tem.

I have com­mented pre­vi­ously that Is­landers are be­ing of­fered Band-Aid so­lu­tions rather than co-or­di­nated sus­tain­able op­tions. And it seems to me that the rhetoric of re­cent weeks is about how to share the only Band-Aid left in the box.

The $400,000 will not cover the needs or fill the gaps. Some within the sys­tem are ad­vo­cat­ing for ex­panded acute care ser­vices while oth­ers de­fend the de­ci­sion to spend the money on pre­ven­tive mea­sures within the school sys­tem.

It is a shame that this has be­come an ei­ther/or scrap over lim­ited funds when we clearly have needs in both places, and more im­por­tantly, dis­tracts us from the big­ger conversation about the over­ar­ch­ing need for an in­te­grated sys­tem join­ing all the parts in a co-or­di­nated, seam­less man­ner.

It is not ap­par­ent to me that the De­part­ment of Health and Well­ness has ap­plied best prac­tices in its management of the re­sources al­lo­cated to men­tal health.

Is­landers need a plan that is reg­u­larly eval­u­ated and re­viewed, and adapted as un­in­tended con­se­quences are iden­ti­fied and as needs change. With­out a plan, how is it de­ter­mined where best to spend the next $400,000? By who­ever wins the scrap?

Not good enough.

Our de­ci­sion-makers must be­come fo­cused on the re­al­i­ties at hand. Is­landers are anx­ious and con­cerned and we need lead­ers who know how to re­solve their dif­fer­ences, ap­ply best prac­tice management and de­sign ap­proaches, and pro­vide well thought out di­rec­tion.


Dr. Heather Keizer, Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s chief men­tal health and ad­dic­tions of­fi­cer, re­cently slammed the prov­ince’s han­dling of men­tal health ser­vices and di­vert­ing funds.

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