P.E.I. lays out 5-year plan for mental health and addictions spending

The province unveiled its timeline for mental health and addictions spending over the next five years after budgeting $100 million in P.E.I.'s last capital budget.

'We want people to feel supported and have their needs addressed as close to home as possible'

'There has been a team of experts looking at master programming for mental health and addictions services, asking the big questions,' says P.E.I. Health Minister Robert Mitchell. (Jessica Doria-Brown)

The province announced more details Tuesday of its plan to improve Prince Edward Island's mental health and addictions programs and services.

Two weeks ago in the 2019-2020 capital budget, government said it planned to spend $100 million over the next five years.

Officials with the province said along with with planning firm CannonDesign they've spent the past year poring over data from P.E.I.'s mental health system and meeting with care providers, patients and others to figure out what is needed most and when.

They said only half of the 12,000 people who were referred for mental health and addictions help were seen in the 2016 – 2017 year.

They also discovered wait times for mental health and addictions patients in the ER usually range between nine and 30 hours. 

They outlined today where they plan to spend millions of dollars to try to fix some of these issues.

2018 - 2019

In the coming year, the province plans to establish what it is calling "e-mental health solutions" — more online help for patients including an online self-assessment tool, rural tele-mental health services, virtual therapies and peer counselling. 

'We want to give the best care in the best location possible,' says Chief of Mental Health and Addictions Dr. Heather Keizer, left, with Verna Ryan, CAO of mental health and addictions for Health PEI. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"We don't necessarily want people going to emergency if they can get that service closer to home," said Verna Ryan,  chief administrative officer of mental health and addictions services for Health PEI.

"Whether it is through a crisis team, an act team [Assertive Community Treatment] or through a community hub, that is what we want. We want people to feel supported and have their needs addressed as close to home as possible."

2019 2020

The following year, the province plans to have four community access centres open in Charlottetown, Summerside, West Prince and Kings County.

They will be looking for central locations that would be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, where people can have access to services and community mental health and addictions staff.

"Ideally with the community hubs, we want it to be a place where people will want to go, where they might get more than one service met," said Dr. Heather Keizer, Health PEI's chief of mental health and addictions.

"Depending on the community, it might be place where they could get a cup of coffee, where they might be able to have contact with a social worker to fill out their paperwork — because that is a big issue with many people."

The province is also planning to have mobile crisis response teams up and running next year.

"If you have a mobile crisis unit in place, you can actually reduce the visits to the emergency room by up to 60 per cent," said Keizer. "We would really like to have that in place first to be able to guide us as we move forward — we want to give the best care in the best location possible." 

2020 – 2021

A new eight-bed housing facility is planned to be ready on the grounds of the current Hillsborough Hospital by 2020-21, officials said.

'There are a lot of elements to this plan,' notes Mitchell. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

The facility will serve two purposes — assisting patients transitioning from the hospital to the community, and a day program for patients spending the day who do not need hospitalization.

2021 – 2022

The following year, government plans to add a dedicated 12-bed emergency department for mental health and addictions at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, with eight treatment spaces and four beds for stabilization.

The province also plans during this year and the year after to create more mental health residential services in Charlottetown and Summerside, to give long-term housing with community mental health supports for those living with mental illness.

2024 – 2025 

The province's new mental health and addictions hospital should be up and running by 2024 -25, officials said. 

The 69-bed Hillsborough Hospital in Charlottetown will be replaced with a new mental health and addictions hospital by 2025, officials say. (CBC)

"Some of the components that we have laid out to '24-'25 are sequential, so we need certain things in place before we can make changes," Ryan said.

Health PEI plans to issue a tender in early December to hire a consultant to develop the infrastructure plan to design and build the system. 

"We will ensure the public is engaged and kept informed on the project timelines and the information," promised Health Minister Robert Mitchell. 

More P.E.I. news

With files from Jessica Doria-Brown


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