Proposal for new ministry of mental health supported by advocates

Mental health advocates are applauding calls for the creation of a new ministry in B.C. that will deal specifically with mental health issues.

Only 25 to 30 % of B.C. children in need of mental health services receive public support says advocate

Only 25 to 30 per cent of B.C. children in need of mental health services receive public support says Bev Gutray, CEO of Canadian Mental Health Association’s B.C. chapter. ((iStock))

Mental health advocates are applauding calls for the creation of a new ministry in B.C. that will deal specifically with mental health issues.

The recommendation is part of a report released this week by a bipartisan legislative committee that examined child and youth mental health services across B.C. for two years.

"What we envision is that that ministry will be able to coordinate and take the leadership in coordinating the services across the ministry," said committee chair Jane Thornthwaite.

But advocates warn the proposed minister will need proper funding to be effective.

"What I'm hoping for is that this is an equivalent to the Minister of Health position ... that it will have its own responsibility for funding and policy," Bev Gutray, CEO of Canadian Mental Health Association's B.C. chapter.

The B.C. Liberals created the position of minister of mental health and addictions under former Premier Gordon Campbell, but that position reported to the Minister of Health, according to Gutray.

Currently, several ministries, including the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Children and Family Development, share the responsibility of handling mental health issues.

Mending a service gap

About 140,000 children in the province need some form of mental health intervention, but only 25 to 30 per cent of them receive services from the public system, according to Gutray.

"It's really an unacceptable service level," she said.

There are also calls to consolidate children's health records and information into one file that all health authorities can access.

"A file can be carried through the system on the child and everyone has access to it. It's something other jurisdictions have," said committee co-chair Doug Donaldson.

Other recommendations in the report include mandatory mental health education at schools and more funding for psychologists to treat children in need.

with files from The Early Edition, Richard Zussman

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