PRESS RELEASE —
Halifax/Kjipuktuk: Today, March 29, 2022 the Nova Scotia Government will release the 2022-2023 Provincial Budget. A commitment to quality mental health care and social equity will only be demonstrated when sufficient prioritization is given to addressing the social determinants of health through the funding of community-based programs and resources and through reducing social inequities.
In order to meet the immediate and future mental health needs of Nova Scotians, the Canadian Mental Health Association Nova Scotia Division [CMHANS], along with our partners, the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers [NSCSW], have offered the recommendations below to address the social determinants of health, including housing and poverty in Nova Scotia.
We will be monitoring today’s budget process closely with a special focus on the government’s investment in these key areas; equity, parity, housing, early intervention, and the social determinants of health.
1. Invest at least $230 million into mental health and substance care to meet the World Health Organization’s recommendation of spending at least 10% of total Department of Health and Wellness spending on mental health and addictions programs.
2. Invest in public health front-line services, contract-in to save money, and extend universal public health care by investing in collaborative community health centers that utilize the full scope of regulated health professions. Specifically, universal access to mental health care is a promise made that must be actualized immediately.
To address the Social Determinants of Mental Health:
1. Implement the 95 recommendations in the Housing for All report to ensure that all Nova Scotians have access to safe, permanently affordable, secure, supported, energy efficient housing including in this budget cycle making a targeted and large-scale investment in affordable housing units delivered via the not-for-profit, cooperative, and public sectors (planning for 33,000 units in total) while also investing in core funding support for the community-based housing sector. Rent control must be permanently maintained to curb the financialization of housing.
2. Fully fund a comprehensive and robust Poverty Eradication Plan, developed using the Social Policy Framework; include targets and timelines that are embedded in legislation (as outlined in CCPA_NS child and family poverty report card).
3. Immediately invest to enhance income supports and address deep poverty while working to ensure that the combination of current income supports, namely the Nova Scotia Child Benefit, the Nova Scotia Affordable Living Tax Credit, and the Poverty Reduction Credit, equals 100% of the Market Basket Measure poverty line. All of these benefits must include regular cost of living increases and take housing/rental inflation and food inflation into consideration.
4. Invest in proactive strategies developed with communities that have particularly high poverty rates to ensure policies and programs meet their needs.
5. Invest in specialized services to ensure culturally safe services to marginalized and oppressed communities, and develop peer support services to reduce barriers and increase access for individuals and communities that are under-resourced, such as Pride Health.
Authentic Community Collaboration
Individual, family, and community relationships, alongside structural constraints and barriers should be recognized as significant in addressing mental health issues and in the design of appropriate and accessible mental health programming. Individual mental health wellness cannot be separated from the social determinants of health, including experiences of social oppression and marginalisation.
To achieve this:
1. Nova Scotians should be offered more community-based practice through non-profits and public services. This is not only more cost-effective, but more accessible to a diverse range of service users and better positioned to address issues of mental health inequity and the social conditions that play a significant role in the development of mental health struggles. These community-based services can include advocacy and support (including financial, housing, and legal support); individual, family, and group counselling; support for daycare/ child or adult care; and transportation support.
2. New funding should be made available to not for profits and to extend services through the public system to develop alternative non-bio-medical services and resources, such as art/music/ dance/animal-assisted interventions for children, youth, adults, and diverse communities. Build increased community resources offering sporting, arts-based activities, and social opportunities. Invest in wrap-around community services to focus on prevention and resilience, rather than targeting services only.
About CMHA NS: The Canadian Mental Health Association is a charitable not-for-profit organization that delivers mental health supports, free of cost to anyone who needs them. Through programming, education and advocacy, we strive to create an environment of hope and empower all Nova Scotians to flourish and thrive. CMHA branches across Nova Scotia provide a wide range of services and support for all people living with mental illness and those experiencing mental health challenges across the province.
About NSCSW: The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers exists to serve and protect Nova Scotians by effectively regulating the profession of social work. We work in solidarity with Nova Scotians to advocate for policies that improve social conditions, challenge injustice and value diversity.
Erin Christie, Provincial Lead, Communications and Community Engagement