Report casts poor light on mental health services, opposition says

A new report about addiction and mental health in Alberta says many people aren’t accessing the services they need.
NDP Health Critic David Eggen believes the provincial government was trying to hide the report by releasing it on a Friday night. (CBC)

A new report about addiction and mental health in Alberta says many people aren’t accessing the services they need.

The report, which contains a survey of 6,000 randomly selected adults, was prepared for the Alberta government by Cam Wild, a professor in addictions and mental health at the University of Alberta.

It found many people are not getting the counselling they need because many counsellors are in private practice, making services too expensive.

Also, most of the province’s resources are directed towards mental health services (80 per cent) and not towards addictions (13 per cent), which the report notes is not proportional to the need.

Children are under-served because most of the focus is on providing mental health services for adults.

Alberta NDP health critic David Eggen welcomes the report, which he believes the government was trying to hide by releasing on a Friday night.

“This is a very good report and we've been waiting for it for a long time,” he said.

“It has a demonstration of serious gaps that we have in mental health both in the treatments of Albertans and in the way we spend money.”

Wildrose health critic Heather Forsyth says she's been trying to get the report since June, when it was first supposed to be released. Like Eggen, she questions when the government decided to release it to the public. 

“For the government to quietly put it out late Friday without letting anyone know is absolutely appalling and a disservice in my mind to the people of this province," she said. 

"This is quite frankly, a comprehensive report that is not complimentary to the government in many means but it's a good report for those who are suffering from mental health [issues] and addictions and should get the credit it deserves." 

In a written statement, Matthew Grant, the press secretary Health Minister Fred Horne, thanked Wild for his work on the report. 

“Our focus on expanding access to mental health and addictions services for all Albertans, especially children and youth, will be greatly aided by this report and accelerate progress," he said. 

"This comprehensive inventory of services and survey data included in the document will help ensure the success of our provincial addictions and mental health strategy, which we began implementing in 2012."

Eggen says that the system needs to be better coordinated to keep people from falling through the cracks.

He says the NDP plans to use the report to push for reforms in how the government provides addictions and mental health services.