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Province announces 10-year plan to address mental health, addiction

Last Updated Jun 26, 2019 at 3:20 pm PDT

Premier Horgan spoke at a press conference on Wednesday about the province's mental health strategy. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

The Pathway to Hope will also include launching child and youth teams connected to schools

Rather than a solid strategy, the plan sets the direction for a new system, which the province says is meant to be adapt

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The province is promising faster and better access to counselling and drug abuse services as it rolls out its vision for mental health and addictions care in B.C.

Judy Darcy, minister of mental health and addictions, says the government’s vision, entitled A Pathway to Hope, is a 10-year vision for care aimed at quickly assisting and supporting those in need.

“It’s a vision for a seamless system for mental health and addictions care where you ask for help once and you get help face and where every door is the right door,” Darcy said as she and Premier John Horgan announced the so-called road map at Mountainside Secondary School in North Vancouver on Wednesday,

The priorities for the first three years of the program include a focus on the wellness of children, youth and young adults, supporting Indigenous-led solutions and improving the quality of care while removing barriers, such as the cost of long-term counselling.

Premier John Horgan announced an additional $10 million in grants for non-profits to provide counselling services, particularly for those who may not be able to afford it or face barriers. The province also plans to increase the number of Foundry Centres, for youth, from 11 to 19, and open two more First Nations-run treatment centres.

Darcy says the fourth priority will establish improved systems of addictions care, building on work done already to address the overdose crisis.

The plan calls for a shift in funding from mental health and substance use treatment to more money toward early prevention, intervention and long-term recovery. The province says most of what it currently spends goes to hospital and downstream services.

Youth worker Bryant Doradea says he’s elated the province is making mental health a priority,  especially counselling, but cautions there isn’t a quick fix.

“We need to look at the very fundamentals of thew system that we live within and how that is conducive to a lot of these negative outcomes,” he said. “We need to also look at those real causes to really stop it long term. There’s a saying that says we as leaders need to plant seeds of trees that we will never bask in the shade of.”

Rather than a solid strategy, the plan sets the direction for a new system, which the province says is meant to be adaptable based on individual, community and provincial needs. The minister says the NDP government has already committed $2.5 billion for mental health and substance abuse services.

Canadian Mental Health Association BC director Jonny Morris calls the road map a good start to improving the mental health and addiction system for British Columbians.

“It also represents a pretty significant shift to getting to people early,” Morris said.”We think that this must be the first building block toward future plans and future funding to respond more fully to people living with mental illness and addiction… What’s going to be needed is to make sure we don’t see what’s been put out today as the final word on what needs to happen in the province around mental health and addictions.””

The Pathway to Hope will also include launching child and youth teams connected to schools, in order to make access to mental health supports easier and more affordable for families. Provincial government statistics show 17 per cent of students seriously considered suicide in 2015.

From 2013 to 2015, 50 per cent more B.C. students reported experiencing depression and anxiety rates went by 135 per cent.

With files from the Canadian Press.