We need action on mental health, not another piece of fiction

Premier King, end of 2020: Mental health will be a big priority in 2021

Premier King, start of 2021: As our first order of business, we are closing the Psychiatric Urgent Care Clinic (PUCC) at Hillsborough Hospital

Have you ever called customer service and had to ask for a manager? It’s usually after you’ve done your best to communicate your issue with whoever answered the call, but then you realize they did not have the authority, or perhaps the will, to do what was necessary to help. So, you ask to speak to a manager. A manager has more authority and ultimately can make the decisions.

I am starting to feel that way when it comes to working to improve mental health and addictions services on PEI. I have worked tirelessly over the past two years to engage with the Minister of Health on this topic. After the last election, based on the Ministers’ and the Premier’s promises, Islanders believed the much needed new mental health campus would be up and running. But here we are, two years later, and all we’re left with are broken promises.

I have met some incredible advocates over the past year that have also realized this government is not doing what they promised for mental health and addictions. They too have been reaching out to the Minister of Health regularly with little to no success. 

Can I speak to your manager?

It has been almost two years. I am done waiting to see progress from the Minister on this. I want to speak to his manager. 

The Premier knew this was one of the top issues for Islanders before the election. He ran on a platform promise to fix it. He told great, hope-filled stories of the bright future mental health services would have under his leadership. He chose the Minister of Health to make those stories a reality. 

Premier, the reality is our mental health care is not getting better. It is getting worse!

A few recent examples that show mental health and addictions is not a priority for this government:

  • The complete closure of Unit 9 and continued failure to prioritize its full reopening;
  • The careless closure of a culvert without providing options or supports, leaving many struggling with homelessness and addictions out in the cold;
  • Increasing wait-times for detox and other addictions services; 
  • Cabinet approval of ALC online gambling without public consultation or consideration of those struggling with gambling addiction; 
  • And most recently, the decision to permanently close the award-winning PUCC at Hillsborough Hospital, putting additional pressure on the QEH ER that is already overburdened and simply ill-suited to support those facing a mental health crisis. 

 

The buck stops with the Premier

Ultimately, Premier King, you are in charge. You’ve said on the floor of the Legislature “If fixing these important issues were just about money, I’d have them fixed this morning.”  You are right, money alone will not solve this issue. However, that is no reason to underfund these services. And there is no excuse for your inaction.

Premier, mental health and addictions is a crisis on PEI. Every week our office hears from individuals and families who are struggling. I know you and your Ministers do too. 

You told Islanders a beautiful and hopeful story about what mental health treatment would look like under your leadership. But we need more than stories now. It is time for you to step up and step in. The buck stops with you.

 

Trish Altass is the MLA for Tyne Valley-Sherbrooke and the Official Opposition Critic for Health and Wellness