Nova Scotia

Mental health, addictions services study released

An advisory committee that has spent the last two years studying mental health and addiction services across Nova Scotia is making dozens of recommendations to overhaul the system.

Committee calls for overhaul of system after two year review

Dr. Michael Unger is co-chair of the committee calling for big changes to the system. (CBC)

An advisory committee that studied mental health and addiction services across Nova Scotia made dozens of recommendations to overhaul the system Monday.

The Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Advisory Committee has been reviewing the system since the fall of 2010.

On Monday, it released its report which includes 61 recommendations.

The group says people are waiting too long for help, and the majority of that assistance is located in the Halifax area.

"We really encourage the government to invest in early intervention, health promotion and quicker access to services," said Dr. Michael Unger, co-chair of the committee.

"In fact, if you think about it, what we're really talking about is ensuring that people can get what they need and when they need it."

The report also suggested changes for the treatment of children.  It said children who need urgent care should receive it within 7 days.  The current standard is 10 days.

"Getting to children, their families early, I think is the key to our success and one of the key recommendations that we're making," said Dr. Ajantha Jayabarathan, a member of the committee.

The committee recommended people with semi-urgent cases receive treatment within 14 days, half of the current standard. 

Minister dismisses some recommendations

Maureen MacDonald, the Minister of Health, said some of the recommended timelines can't be met because the province is still focusing on meeting the current targets.

"Standards that the province has, we haven't met. We're the only province that have any standards and we need to be able to meet those," she said.

The Dexter government has increased the budget for mental health and addictions by almost $4 million this year.

Unger called that a good first step.

MacDonald said she will release the government's full response to the report before summer.