Yukon mental wellness strategy vague, lacks commitments: opposition

Yukon opposition parties say the mental health and addictions strategy released by the territorial government Thursday is missing leadership, vision, timelines and cash.

Leadership, vision and cash commitments missing say critics

Yukon NDP health critic Jan Stick said Thursday the government's mental wellness strategy is short on substance. (CBC)

Opposition members in the Yukon legislature are questioning the substance of the Yukon Party government's mental wellness strategy, released Thursday.

The strategy will pay attention to coordinating existing programs, said Health Minister Mike Nixon. The government will also focus the first two years of the 10 year strategy on improving mental health and addictions services for children, young people and families, he said. The plan includes $1 million dollars in a fund available to First Nations, communities and non-government organizations. 

While New Democrat health critic Jan Stick welcomed the document, she said it lacks a clear plan to deliver immediate mental health care to people who desperately need it.

Yukon Health Minister Mike Nixon, centre, briefed the public and media Thursday about the government's new mental wellness strategy. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)
"How does this strategy address the eight-month long wait list for mental health assessments?" Stick asked. "What is this government's target when it comes to reducing wait times?" 

Stick said the strategy is "missing clear timelines and measurable outcomes, as well as significant funding and personnel commitments."

Liberal leader Sandy Silver applauded the money for community proposals while noting mental health care is a clear government responsibility and the government must take the lead instead of off-loading it onto others. 

"We're looking for leadership here," he said.

"We're looking for a long term vision as far as the long term forecast in the budget, there's one million dollars this year, which is the fifth year of the mandate of the Yukon Party, there's zero in it next year, there's no forecasted funding," Silver said.

Both opposition parties have called for more on-the-ground services for rural Yukon communities, but the government has said it will not hire more community mental health nurses this year.