Progress made on N.L. All Party Committee on Mental Health and Addictions recommendations
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.
Health Minister John Haggie and CHANNAL executive director Paula Corcoran-Jacobs gave an update on mental healthcare initiatives on Wednesday, July 4.