People 'crying and begging' for detox beds, mental health and addictions forum hears

Close to 200 people attended an addictions and mental health forum in Charlottetown on Tuesday night.

'We find money for roundabouts.... For God's sake, we can find it for people who are dying.'

As manager of the soup kitchen in Charlottetown, Tammy MacKinnon, right, says she saw people in crisis on a daily basis. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

It was a packed room at The Guild in Charlottetown Tuesday night as close to 200 people attended a discussion on mental health and addictions. 

The event was hosted by Ellen Taylor, who wanted to have a conversation about addiction and mental health supports in the province.

"We have people on P.E.I. that are overdosing, like daily, and people being turned away for beds at detox," she said.

"It's not acceptable."

In recovery herself, Taylor got the ball rolling for the event after sending a letter to Health Minister James Aylward this past January.

In the letter she described some of the issues she'd like to see addressed, such as the number of counsellors, detox beds, and wait times to get into treatment.

Ellen Taylor created the event to address the state of addictions and mental health supports in the province. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

"Everybody needs to work together and the politicians needs to listen to the people who know," she said. 

Low success rate

A number of people spoke at the forum, including others who like Taylor are in recovery.

Brandon Bowers has been sober for eight years and considered himself lucky to get into a treatment program.

The room was packed at a mental health and addictions forum at The Guild in Charlottetown on Tuesday night. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

He said while in recovery, he was told about a statistic from a treatment worker — that the success rate of the treatment program in P.E.I. was only one in 12 people. 

"If one in 12 people who got cancer survived, we would constantly be screaming for a cure and how to fix this," he said.

Tammy MacKinnon, a former manager of the Upper Room Soup Kitchen in Charlottetown, sat on the panel. She said would see people on a daily basis in crisis at the soup kitchen.

"People are crying and begging when they talk to people in detox to please get them in," she said.

'We have people on P.E.I. that are overdosing, like daily, and people being turned away for beds at detox,' says Taylor. (Isabella Zavarise/CBC)

MacKinnon said she believed solutions are possible "but it takes really brave people in power to do it."

"We find money for roundabouts. We find it for hockey rinks. For God's sake, we can find it for people who are dying," she said.

Province has long-term plans

Health Minister James Aylward was at the event and said if there was some way to divide the responsibilities to have a minister solely responsible for mental health and addictions, "it could probably make a big difference."

Aylward said some of his administration's long-term plans include providing care closer to home and creating a standalone emergency department at the Hillsborough Hospital, which would be exclusively for mental health and addictions. 

"By working together and talking about this we can make a change," he said.

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Isabella Zavarise is a video journalist with CBC in P.E.I. You can contact her at


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