Mental health care is improving, Flemming says

New Brunswick's Minister of Health says his government is committed to continued improvements to mental health care services in the province.

Health Minister Ted Flemming acknowledges 'wheels of government' turn slowly

Health Minister Ted Flemming says his government is committed to continued improvements to mental health care services in the province.

This week a Moncton mother and Provincial Court Judge Michael McKee expressed concerns that improvements were not happening quickly enough and people are unable to receive the care they need quickly.

Flemming acknowledged the challenge of completely changing the way provincial departments respond is a challenging task, especially when the wheels of government turn slowly.

The provincial government does have a plan to transform mental health care in New Brunswick that was announced in May 2011.

"It's a major revision and a major refocusing in the treatment and awareness of health care and I hope that we're going to be leaders in the country in this," Flemming said.

He said after the first year of investment in the action plan there have been improvements, including funding for 100 young people to receive early psychosis intervention.

Further investments will be announced by the provincial government in the March budget, according to the health minister

Mental health reforms coming

Flemming said he is asking New Brunswickers to cut him some slack, explaining that he's only been the health minister for four months.

"The [action] plan is 2011-2018, then we had a switch of ministers ... and I find that a $3 billion portfolio, 20-some thousand employees, health renewal and everything else, that I just humanly can't get to everything on day one."

The Action Plan for Mental Health in New Brunswick used a 2009 report by McKee as its foundation.

McKee led a task force that concluded the mental health care system had to be completely rebuilt in New Brunswick to meet the needs of people.

Flemming said he respects the work McKee did and his government is committed to making those changes.

"It's a big task and the reason why we put the plan on from 2011 to 2018 is because this is more process than event. This isn't just the single stroke, or flick of the pen, this is a process of treatment, a process of education, a complete redefining," he said.

Flemming said he understands the concerns of families who are struggling but also said they have to be reasonable in their expectations.

"This is a real issue, mental health is real, it's of concern and we've got to keep our eye on the goal and stay focussed and keep moving forward," the health minister said.