View original article here: http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1564236-mental-health-group-cautiously-endorses-grit-resolution
Mental health group cautiously endorses Grit resolution
John McPhee, Chronicle Herald
The provincial mental health association is cautiously welcoming a Liberal party resolution that calls for consistent Medicare coverage of mental health services and “community-based” care.
“We’re quite excited and supportive of the resolution with one caveat . . . that it would be nice to have a clear definition of ‘community-based,’ ” said Pamela Magee, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Nova Scotia division.
The resolution at the Liberal convention in Halifax this weekend calls for the Canada Health Act to be amended and a national framework created “to ensure the inclusion of mental health services within Medicare (and) in consultation with provincial and territorial governments and indigenous groups, establish a systematic universal system of effective funded mental health programs and services.”
The resolution also calls for a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of community-based partnerships led by mental health and primary care professionals across Canada for up to five years with annual reports to Parliament on effectiveness, cost and outcomes.
It’s the “community-based” phrasing that touches a sore point with Magee’s organization.
Unlike many provinces, non-governmental organizations in the community such as the CMHA aren’t officially recognized in Nova Scotia, she said in a recent interview.
“We aren’t a part of the continuum of care from a service and delivery recognized component of the continuum of care from a funded perspective. . . . So therefore we are not valued or recognized as a . . . core component of the continuum of care.”
The CMHA provides mental health and addiction supports and services with a focus on health promotion and collaboration with community partners. Established in 1908, the association has a national leadership body, 10 provincial divisions and 75 community-based “branches” across the country. It’s supported by donations and short-term grants.
“In other provinces such as Ontario, community-based NGOs are the primary health care centres,” Magee said. “They hire clinical staff and they deliver the services within the community. So it’s meeting people where they’re at instead of clustering everything in care centres from a traditional health-care model. So it’s creating equity and accessibility to health-care in communities.”
Many mental health care services are already covered by Medicare but, as with all health-care services, each province and territory has its own policies.
In Nova Scotia, MSI covers in-patient mental health and addictions treatment and, when deemed medically necessary, out-of-province treatment, a Department of Health and Wellness spokeswoman said in an email.
“Community-based mental health and addictions services are funded by the province through the NS health authority, which provides/contracts community-based services for outreach, counselling and group therapy. These services are free to all Nova Scotians with a valid health card.”
During a panel discussion on mental health at the convention, federal Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said it’s obviously important to talk about crisis situations such as post-traumatic stress disorder but also the more day-to-day challenges in life.
O’Regan, whose family has military connections, said simply retiring from the Canadian Forces, or any employment situation that provides structure and support, can be difficult.
His department is trying to do more to help veterans deal with that transition, said O’Regan, who was joined by panel moderator Ontario MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who has also spoken publicly about depression, and federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.
“Knowing exactly where their paycheque could come from, knowing the person who works at the base gym, everything’s done for them so they can concentrate on their jobs,” he said. “And the problem is, they are just then, let go.”
When she started her career in social work, Petitpas Taylor said “you just didn’t talk about mental health back then. … And access to services is still a challenge today, let’s be frank, but it was more of a challenge back then. . . . But we all recognize we all have a long way to go. Ensuring that Canadians have access to services absolutely has to be key in all this.”