Progress made on N.L. All Party Com­mit­tee on Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tions rec­om­men­da­tions

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - News - BY DAVID MAHER THE TELEGRAM [email protected]­gram.com Twit­ter: DavidMa­herNL

Paula Corcoran-Ja­cobs grew emo­tional when she de­scribed walk­ing a long, dif­fi­cult road with her men­tal health.

“When I was 15, I was the top of my class. I was a Type A. I didn’t think I would live with a men­tal ill­ness,” she said.

“When I be­came un­well and en­tered the sys­tem, I was very lucky, very for­tu­nate. I re­ceived ser­vices within 72 hours of be­ing di­ag­nosed. The rea­son I sit here be­fore you is be­cause I got timely ac­cess.”

Af­ter one year of work, Health Min­is­ter John Hag­gie is singing the praises of the progress made on rec­om­men­da­tions set forth to make the prov­ince’s men­tal health sys­tem work for those who need it.

On Wed­nes­day, July 4, Hag­gie gave an up­date on To­wards Re­cov­ery, an ini­tia­tive started from the May 2017 find­ings of the all-party com­mit­tee of men­tal health and ad­dic­tions. Though Hag­gie was loath to give credit to col­leagues from all three ma­jor par­ties who worked on the ini­tia­tive, the com­mit­tee’s work has come with re­sults.

Wait times for men­tal health coun­selling ser­vices have dropped by 35 per cent. In St. John’s the high-wa­ter mark of 21 months to see a coun­sel­lor has dropped to 24 days, ac­cord­ing to the up­date.

On the Burin Penin­sula, where a rash of sui­cides last year sparked calls for change in men­tal health ser­vices, the wait time to see a coun­sel­lor has evap­o­rated — go­ing from a high of 180 days down to zero.

Of the 54 rec­om­men­da­tions put forth by the all-party com­mit­tee on men­tal health in March 2017, 20 have been com­pleted. All of the short-term goals are done, with two of the medium term com­plete. An­other 34 are in progress.

Hag­gie says there’s lots of work left to do, but it’s hap­pen­ing.

“It’s al­most like we’re build­ing a house. We dug a hole in the ground, we put the foun­da­tion in – To­ward Re­cov­ery is that foun­da­tion,” he said.

“We got a solid foot­ing, we’re just start­ing to see the floors come above ground level.”

An­other change has seen the han­dling of in­mates in cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties trans­ferred from the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to the Depart­ment of health.

The change co­in­cides with re­cent deaths at cor­rec­tional in­sti­tu­tions across the prov­ince in re­cent months — but is not a di­rect re­ac­tion to the tragedies in Clarenville or at Her Majesty’s Pen­i­ten­tiary. The changes were rec­om­mended in June of last year and came into ef­fect in re­cent weeks.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the “Mem­phis Model” of cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion has also proven fruit­ful to the men­tal health sys­tem. The model sees a po­lice of­fi­cer paired with a so­cial worker to re­spond to cri­sis. The goal is to pro­vide im­me­di­ate care, while keep­ing those in cri­sis out of hos­pi­tals and cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties.

“Be­fore the Mem­phis model was im­ple­mented, the orig­i­nal cri­sis team made 84 vis­its to peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health cri­sis in the month of April. Us­ing the Mem­phis model, in April of this year they made 161 vis­its,” said Hag­gie.

“That’s 161 vis­its to help peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues from hav­ing to go to an emer­gency depart­ment or from be­ing de­tained by the po­lice.”

The prac­tice is in place in St. John’s and Labrador City so far, but Hag­gie says it’s com­ing to West­ern and Cen­tral New­found­land and Labrador be­fore year’s end.

At the time of the rec­om­men­da­tions of the all-party com­mit­tee, the prov­ince spent 5.7 per cent of its health­care bud­get on men­tal health. In 2018, the spend­ing grew to 6.4 per cent. Hag­gie says the prov­ince is on track to bump that num­ber to 9 per cent by 2022.

DAVID MAHER / THE TELEGRAM

Health Min­is­ter John Hag­gie and CHANNAL ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Paula Corcoran-Ja­cobs gave an up­date on men­tal health­care ini­tia­tives on Wed­nes­day, July 4.

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