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LETTER: Islanders anxious, concerned about mental health care

['Letter to the editor']
['Letter to the editor']

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 government funded 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 front-line 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 the past week is about how to share the only Band-aid left in the box. $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 coordinated, 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. Susan Hartley,

Clinical psychologist, and Critic for Health and Wellness, Green Party of P.E.I.

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