Saskatchewan Budget 2019: Mental health and addictions get $30M funding increase

The province has put 6.3 per cent of the Ministry of Health's budget toward mental health funding and 0.9 per cent toward addictions funding for 2019-20.

Sask. puts $10M toward mental health and $13.7M to North Battleford mental health hospital

The province says this is the largest ever commitment to mental health services in Saskatchewan history. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Saskatchewan's government is putting $30 million more toward mental health and addictions in 2019-20.

About half of that money — $13.7 million — is going toward North Battleford's new Saskatchewan Hospital, which offers long term psychiatric rehabilitation.

The federal government has also contributed $6.25 million, bringing the Ministry of Health's total dollars for mental health and addictions to $402 million in 2019-20. 

"We just think we need to do better on the whole mental health front and this is, I would say, a huge step forward," Health Minister Jim Reiter said. 

He said the budget includes "the largest commitment ever to mental health services in our province." 

Reiter highlighted more beds, extra staff and new mental health clinics as some of the province's key areas of spending. 

The province has also sectioned off $1 million for harm reduction initiatives.

The government outlined the plans for new beds in its release: 

  • About 75 new residential support beds for people transitioning from hospital back into the community
  • About 50 pre and post-addiction treatment beds for people moving between detox and in-patient treatment or back to the community
  • 10 new in-patient addiction treatment beds at Pine Lodge in Indian Head
  • Six new inpatient addiction treatment beds at Calder Centre in Saskatoon
  • Six new in-patient addictions beds for youth in southern Saskatchewan

Opposition says dollars don't go the distance

NDP finance critic Trent Wotherspoon welcomed the "smart investment," but said this is just a start. 

"It's certainly not going the distance to the level that Sask people need and deserve," Wotherspoon said. 

He said the province still has a long way to go when it comes to closing the gaps for timely supports and services. 

​"We need to realize that ​we have a crystal meth crisis across this province that's ravaging people's lives and families and communities," he said. 

"The kind of detox and rehab that's needed there is a longer duration."

Temporary unit becomes permanent 

The province is putting $1.5 million in funding to turn the temporary Mental Health Assessment Unit in Saskatoon permanent as a Mental Health Short Stay Unit. 

It has seven beds and will provide people with acute mental health care needs up to seven days of care. The province had previously indicated it intended to close the temporary unit, causing concern amongst mental health advocates. 

The new budget also allots $1.6 million to start up three "Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine Clinics" in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.

Sask. seeking new hires

The province said it is looking to hire more staff to provide mental health and addictions treatment.

The province hopes to use $1.1 million to hire up to 12 full-time staff to help kids and youth who need mental health care. It is also allotting $650,000 to hire up to seven primary care counsellors. More than 139,000 people in the province seek care every year from counsellors like this, often for anxiety and depression. 

It alloted $515,000 to hire an unspecified number of pediatric nurses and social workers at the not-yet-open Jim Pattison Children's Hospital emergency department.

The province is putting $300,000 to help the La Ronge Detox Centre provide 24/7 nursing support.

Funding for targeted mental health and addictions initiatives is increasing by nearly $30 million in this budget. (CBC)

Boosting existing services

The government is also putting money toward existing organizations:

  • $1.2 million for 18 mental health walk-in counseling clinics across through province through Family Services Saskatchewan
  • $420,000 for vocational programming for people with mental health needs through Canadian Mental Health Association of Saskatchewan
  • $200,000 split between the Autism Resource Centre in Regina and Autism Services of Saskatoon
  • $250,000 for Mental Health Commission of Canada's Roots of Hope Suicide Prevention Initiative in Buffalo Narrows
  • $600,000 annually for Sanctum 1.5, a 10 bed unit to help pregnant women with HIV and substance abuse issues (in partnership with the Ministry of Social Services)

More Saskatchewan budget stories