youth-mental-health

A provincial task force concluded in 2009 the mental health care system had to be completely rebuilt. (Courtesy Kids Help Phone)

A Moncton mother says the provincial government has to move quickly to improve mental health services for young people.

Health Minister Ted Flemming says he'll announce investments in Year Two of a seven-year plan in the budget later this month.

But Vickie Carter says it's already too late for her 17-year-old son Andrew, who is bipolar and autistic.

She's been asking the provincial government for therapy for her son since he was 11 years old, but he has received only three months of applied behavioural analysis and his condition is getting worse, she said.

After a violent outburst last month, Andrew was arrested and spent a week in the adult psychiatric unit at the Moncton Hospital, said Carter.

He was strapped down by his feet and so medicated she couldn't understand what he was saying, she said.

'It's abuse'

"This is a child who functions at the level of a five- or six-year-old, so the treatment that he would have to go through to get help there would be like taking a kindergarten kid and strapping them to a bed and overmedicating them into compliance, which is what happens," said Carter.

"It's abuse, in my mind it's abuse, she said.

"I was appalled and if I were the minister of health, or minister of social development, or even the premier of the province, I wouldn't be able to hold my head up knowing that this is what families like mine are up against for treatment for our kids.

"It's a disgrace. It's disgusting."

Centre of excellence needed

Maureen Bilerman, whose daughter is bipolar and can't get the help she needs in New Brunswick, agrees.

She is fighting for early intervention and calling on the provincial government to establish a centre of excellence for young people who are suffering with mental illness.

"Over a three-year period our family cost this system a quarter million dollars and that was for ineffective treatments and services," said Bilerman.

It's time for the provincial government to do things differently, which wouldn't necessarily cost more money, she said.

Last month, a provincial court judge who led a task force in 2009 that concluded the mental health care system had to be completely rebuilt, expressed concerns improvements were not happening quickly enough.

Judge Michael McKee said people are unable to receive the care they need quickly.

The health minister said he respects the work McKee did and his government is committed to making the necessary changes.

The Action Plan for Mental Health in New Brunswick 2011-18 used McKee's report as its foundation.

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