Nova Scotia

Mental health promotion group disappointed it's left out of new funding

While the Nova Scotia government spends $8.6 million on mental health initiatives that prioritize early detection and treatment, a national group that focuses on mental heath promotion and injury and illness prevention is feeling "ignored" in this province.

N.S. mental health strategy focuses spending on early detection and treatment

A group that focuses on mental heath promotion and injury and illness prevention said it is feeling 'ignored' by the Nova Scotia government. (Shutterstock/Pressmaster)

As branches of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) meet with provincial governments to discuss the spending of mental health dollars, the Nova Scotia division says it feels "ignored" by the McNeil government.

Pamela Magee, executive director of CMHA Nova Scotia, says she's "disappointed and disheartened" requests to meet with the Health Department appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

It's not what Magee was expecting last December when Nova Scotia — along with Newfoundland and Labrador — were the second and third provinces to sign bilateral health funding deals with the federal government.

"I thought it was a great Christmas gift," said Magee about the $130.8 million over 10 years Ottawa agreed to transfer to Nova Scotia for targeted mental health spending.

Community programs fill gaps

Her hope was that a portion would be allocated to CMHA for mental health promotion and injury and disease prevention. CMHA provides services such as applied suicide intervention skills training to workplaces.

Pamela Magee is the executive director of Nova Scotia division of the Canadian Mental Health Association. (CBC)

Community programs are key to filling in the gaps in the mental health system, Magee says. 

At the start of the year, she presented a position statement to the deputy minister of health requesting additional funding on behalf of the CMHA and four other groups (Schizophrenia Society, Laing House, Healthy Minds Cooperative and Self-Help Connection). 

'Unprecedented infusion of funding'

The CMHA Nova Scotia-specific funding request was supported last week by the national CMHA, which marks its 100th anniversary next year.

Citing "an unprecedented infusion of funding for mental health," national CMHA CEO Patrick Smith called for the strategic investment of funds — with funding dedicated to community-based mental health services.

But 10 months after that deal was struck, none of it has flowed through to the local CMHA division.

The wheels are in motion in parts of the country.

Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Ontario division, says the group is at the table with the province to help develop strategies and plans, and there's some initial talk of delivering services and transferring funds to non-profits.

Talks have 'intensified' in Ontario

Quenneville says CMHA "continually" has discussions with the provincial government about health spending allocations.

"That's only intensified in light of the [mental health] transfer," she said.

A similar discussion is happening in Newfoundland and Labrador, Magee says.

The Nova Scotia Liberal government is spending an additional $8.6 million on mental health this year — much of it allocated to department initiatives — that it says will lead to almost 70 more mental health-care providers.

Part of that funding will be used to create a new central intake system to help all Nova Scotians looking for help. 

There's also a focus on school support — particularly in Cape Breton — after the tragedy of three youth suicides during the last school year. 

And a youth outreach program, CaperBase, will be receiving more than $460,000 to expand its work.

Health Minister Randy Delorey says he's ready to have a conversation with the Canadian Mental Health Association. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey says the priority is on youth because earlier detection and treatment leads to better outcomes.

He says the department recognizes that mental health is a chronic illness that can last a lifetime, "so that's why at this point and time it's very, very important with these investments."

Delorey says he apologizes for the CMHA feeling left out, but says he's ready to have a conversation with them.

"It's not an either-or, this work that's ongoing — it's a commitment," says Delorey. "It is a long-term journey that we're on as a province."

Magee hopes to have that conversation with the department to stress the role of health promotion and injury and disease prevention. She says the group is eager to roll out a program that focuses on helping people to feel mentally well through building resilience.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Chiu is a reporter in Nova Scotia and hosts Atlantic Tonight on Saturdays at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. in Newfoundland. If you have a story idea for her, contact her at elizabeth.chiu@cbc.ca.

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