Question re: Mental health services - April 7, 2015

Mr. Silver: I’ve already noted in this sitting the fact that Yukon is one of only two jurisdictions in Canada without a mental health strategy. Just over a year ago, the Department of Health and Social Services released a report called A Clinical Services Plan for Yukon Territory. One of the key findings of the report was quite blunt, Mr. Speaker — and I quote: “Mental health services are in a significant deficit outside of Whitehorse …”

Mr. Speaker, what has the government done in the year since it received the $200,000 report to address this lack of mental health services in rural Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: I thank the member opposite for his question. Of course, this government has invested heavily in mental health services over the last decade. We only need to look at programs, such as what we’re doing in the area of FASD, the investments that we’re making in this budget for the St. Elias group home and the investments in the Salvation Army with the facility that was just announced a short time ago.

We will continue on with these investments. There is lots of work to be done in this area. We are certainly working with the local mental health association and the good work that they do. I would certainly recognize the hard work from people in the NGO community and government community around the territory, both in Whitehorse and rural communities.

Mr. Silver: I can see it is hard for the minister to list some of the rural strategies because there really aren’t a lot. Let’s go back to the government’s own report. This is what it heard from its own employees about mental health services — and I quote: “The input from health centres also provided insight into care gaps of concern: Mental health and addiction services are not well resourced in communities.” It went on to warn — and I quote again: “Not addressing ADS and mental health services in Yukon Territory risks failure for a clinical services plan. Central to a clinical services plan of value to the residents of Yukon Territory is the expanded resourcing of ADS and mental health services, especially in the communities. There is no greater need.”

I will ask again: What action has the government taken on this issue in rural Yukon since it received the report more than a year ago?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: What we clearly have here is a failure of the member opposite to really pay attention to what this government has been working on over the last decade. We have two hospitals, one in Watson Lake and one in Dawson City, with services for people with mental health issues, both of which the member opposite has voted against. We have money in the budget and have had money in the budget for Many Rivers to provide services within Yukon communities, expenditures the member opposite has voted against each and every time.

We will continue that good work. Again I thank the department and the NGOs for reaching out to the communities. The member opposite mentioned alcohol and drug services and those services, which, with the expansion of the Sarah Steele Building, will continue to be provided in Yukon communities — again, another project and services that the member opposite has voted against each and every time.

Mr. Silver: It is very unfortunate that clearly the failure here is the minister’s inability to comprehend the actual problem. The overwhelming message from the government’s own report is that things need to change. Yet the minister stands in this House and continues to defend the status quo. “We are doing a good job,” he says, and refuses to acknowledge that more needs to be done.

Let’s go back to the report — and I quote: “No provider or service interview conducted during the study was silent on the enormity of the problem with, and impact of, the management and challenges of mental health services in the Yukon Territory. The full spectrum of mental health issues is prevalent and generates a huge burden on available resources and family members.” It continues: “…not a single interview during this study was silent on the critical need for expanded and re-tooled MHS to be central in service planning.”

Mr. Speaker, I will try again. How does this government plan to address these shortcomings?

Hon. Mr. Nixon: Clearly, what we have here is the inability for the member opposite to really understand what the facts are and understand what the services in the territory are. The member opposite should be ashamed of himself for voting against a budget, and previous budgets, that provided mental health services within all of the communities through the Sarah Steele Building, through Drug and Alcohol Services and through Many Rivers.

The member opposite should be ashamed, and I look forward to the member opposite voting in favour of this 2015-16 budget with expanded services for mental health in all Yukon communities.