Nfld. & Labrador

Put meat behind mental health policy, says coalition to candidates

More community-based supports and beds for patients with eating disorders are on the list of needs from a group promoting mental health, and it wants election candidates to sign on before election day.
A coalition on mental health issues is calling for better services, in institutions and in the community. (CBC)

More community-based supports and beds for patients with eating disorders are on the list of needs from a group promoting mental health, and it wants election candidates to add detail to their general promises.

The Community Coalition 4 Mental Health held a news conference in St. John's Wednesday to push issues it wants addressed before election day, Nov. 30.

"I don't think that any of the parties have really come forward and articulated what we would like to hear — that there is a solid, upfront commitment to mental health," said Tree Walsh, an outreach worker and member of the coalition.

Tree Walsh works with a needle exchange and says drug addicts are desperate for long term treatment. (CBC)

The group unveiled its five pillars of policy that it wants politicians to start talking about.

Support needed

They include community based services and supports, and residential beds for those dealing with eating disorders. Patients with anexoria and bullimia now have to leave the province for treatment.

"I know people who have gotten help through family and friends, but sometimes it's not the professional help they would need to succeed in school and just to get on the right track in life," said Kyle Saunders, who said he has friends with eating disorders who can't travel to the mainland.

The coalition is also calling for enhanced care and addictions services at Her Majesty's Penitentiary, a new Waterford Hospital and better mental health services at other publicly funded institutions. 

"An example of these would be long-term care facilities, foster homes, group homes, etc.," said coalition co-chair Megan Barnhill.

Megan Barnhill and Kyle Saunders are with the Community Coalition 4 Mental Health. (CBC)

Barnhill said the group wants a 25 per cent annual increase in spending on community supports, until current spending levels have doubled.

Desperate drug addicts

Walsh, who runs a needle exchange program, talked about the lack of resources for drug addicts desperate to get methadone or other treatment for their addictions.

"And this province is sorely lacking in resources that they need," she said 

"I think there's a new treatment centre in Harbour Grace that's about to be opened, but I think that too falls short of what's needed for individuals with opioid addictions in particular....and desperate people do desperate things," said Walsh.

"We need a response that acknowledges that addiction truly is a bigger problem in this province than we have ever acknowledged, and we definitely need a long term treatment centre to get well, and then supports in the community to keep them on track."

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