May 12th, 2020

AG report points to gaps in mental health care

Halifax -- Nova Scotians need better access to mental health care as we continue to isolate and deal with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s Auditor General’s report reveals a number of concerning gaps in mental health planning by the Department of Health and Wellness and the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

"COVID-19 has increased the emotional and financial load on people in ways that are apparent to everyone in Nova Scotia," said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. "The situation is shining a spotlight on how important it is for everyone to be able to receive mental health supports, when they need them. Right now, we have a two-tiered system, where people with money or insurance can get help right away, but those without often have to wait months to get care from the public system.”

In November 2017, the AG told the Department of Health and the NSHA they needed to develop a clear understanding of wait times and report on those standards. That recommendation has not been completed, which means access to care may not be consistent across the province.

The NSHA has also failed to finalize policies around emergency mental health services to reflect a provincial approach, or implement emergency department safety recommendations from the AG.

“When it comes to mental health care people need to know that they will get the care they need, when they need it," said NDP Health spokesperson Susan Leblanc. "We have to address these gaps in mental health care the same way we would for any other kind of health care in our province.”

The NDP caucus has tabled legislation to create a Mental Health Bill of Rights, which would require the government to spend 10 per cent of the health budget on mental health care as recommended by the World Health Organization.