NWT welcomes Canadian mental health strategy

NWT welcomes Canadian mental health strategy
Canada’s national mental health strategy, released May 8.Photo: Canadian Mental Health Commission.

The Canadian Mental Health Commission launched its national mental health strategy in Yellowknife last week, but it will be another week before the public sees how recommendations stack up against the territory’s own long-awaited mental health and addictions action plan.

Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu announced last week that the territory’s three-year action plan for addressing mental health and addictions in communities will be tabled this week in the Legislature before the current session ends.

MLAs have anxiously awaited the document, hoping details will address prevention, treatment centres, integrated case management, telehealth and e-health, and family treatment programs for residential school survivors.

Beaulieu said the plan is intended to be a start.

“This plan will not have all the answers, but it will define a number of steps that we can take as a government and as a territory over the next three years to ensure that our system is equipped to respond and support those in need with appropriate programs and services,” he said.

The minister indicated part of the plan will include appointing a $300,000 Mental Health and Addictions Forum, an advisory group mandated to provide advice on effective community-based solutions. MLAs are expected to nominate individuals who may be an asset to the forum.

“We need to involve communities in designing and delivering programs that speak to local issues and priorities,” Beaulieu said.

He also indicated that prevention will be a major piece of the strategy.

“Prevention is the most effective way to ensure our residents lead healthy lives,” he said.

President and CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Commission Louise Bradley said the NWT launch, which was the second on a national tour following one in Whitehorse, said she was thrilled with the response to the strategy in Yellowknife.

Bradley said the commission started the tour in the North because the territories are often at the tail-end of work done in Canada.

“They are often the last to be considered, so we tried to put the territories first,” she said.

Members of the commission, including Bradley, met with Beaulieu along with the standing committee on health and social services, who were very interested in the national strategy in light of the forthcoming release of the territory’s action plan. She said she is looking forward to the release of the NWT plan next week.

“I understand there’s a fair bit of overlap (between the strategies), so we are looking for ways to collaborate on things,” Bradley said. “Too often, people are working in isolation.”

The commission, funded by Health Canada on a 10-year mandate, released its strategy on May 8 in Ottawa. The 150-page document was completed based on five years of research and consultation, and outlines recommendations for a comprehensive approach to addressing mental health in all sectors of society.

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