P.E.I. health minister says government unlikely to meet expectations of mental-health advocates

The organizer of a campaign pushing for improved mental-health services on P.E.I. says work will continue even when the 100-day campaign ends.

Rob Henderson says province shares same goals as How Many Wade group

Health Minister Rob Henderson said that the government and the How Many Wade mental-health advocates have similar goals, but that the government is unlikely to meet the group's expectations. (CBC)

P.E.I.'s minister of health and wellness says it's unlikely the government will meet the expectations of the How Many Wade group lobbying for improved mental health-care services on the Island. 

The group has been sending open letters to Premier Wade MacLauchlan every day for 100 days, outlining the shortcomings its found dealing with the province's mental-health services.

The group has also outlined nine fixes it would like to see. The campaign's organizer, Sarah Stewart-Clark, said she's been frustrated by the government's lack of movement on the fixes and lack of response to the letters. 

Sarah Stewart-Clark says the How Many Wade group has been growing steadily, but has had little response from the government to the nine requests the group is making to improve mental-health care on the Island. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The suggested fixes are:

  • More nurses with psychiatric training in the ERs.
  • A mobile mental-health crisis team.
  • Islanders with mental illness moved out of ERs and into appropriate psychiatric units.
  • A child psychiatrist practising in person in Charlottetown.
  • A suicide prevention strategy.
  • A serious conversation about child molestation and a strategy to help survivors.
  • More therapists in the public system, especially those trained in trauma.
  • A child advocate. 
  • A complement of 15 to 17 psychiatrists practising on PEI.​

Not a crisis, minister says

Health Minister Rob Henderson said improving the system is a priority and work is being done, but that the government wants to make sure it's being thorough and involving groups with expertise.

"If I look at the nine items on the list, seven of them would be reflective of our department and most of those are either [items] we have dealt with or we're in the process of dealing with," he said. "But will it meet this particular group's expectations? Probably not. It's just the way it goes in the business that we're in, I guess."

He said the Department of Health has made good progress in the past year, including working to fine-tune its suicide prevention plan and hiring a doctor with expertise in mobile crisis response.

Henderson said reading the stories being shared on the How Many Wade Facebook group is heartwrenching for him, but he rejects labelling of the current situation as a "crisis."

The province isn't alone in dealing with psychiatrist shortages and people with complex mental-health needs, he said. 

"It's difficult situations that families can find themselves in," he said. "I know each individual that is going through what they would deem a crisis within their family, nothing would be fast enough. You want things tomorrow. But as minister of health and wellness in this province I can assure people we are very aware of these issues."

With files from Island Morning