Glen Abernethy: Mental Health Stategic Framework

March 3, 2016
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Mr. Speaker, this Assembly has made it a priority to focus on culturally appropriate delivery methods for mental health and addictions services in our communities.  To accomplish this we need to improve the services and supports that are provided to residents. We know that the current system needs improvement, and we must rethink the way mental health and addictions services are delivered. This is why we have updated the Mental Health Act, and are conducting an external review of mental health and addictions programs, as the first steps towards developing a Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Framework.

Mr. Speaker, in early summer 2015, I established a Mental Health Quality Assurance Committee to consider the care provided to a specific client, with a view to determine whether there was a need to improve the provision of mental health services. The Department of Health and Social Services secured the services of a renowned psychiatrist and professor at Dalhousie University, who is an expert on adolescent mental health, to lead this review. The committee submitted its final report to me on October 1, 2015.

Later today, at the appropriate time, I will table a document entitled Quality Mental Health Care: An Action Plan. This Action Plan addresses each of the recommendations in the Case Review report. The Action Plan will also support continued work in the coming months to advance the development of the broader Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Framework that will aim to address gaps in the current system; improve service and program delivery; improve inefficiencies; and ensure public safety.

We are working with a team of external experts to conduct a review of the current mental health and addictions system in the NWT. They will examine the strengths and weaknesses of our system by looking at leading and emerging practices in other jurisdictions facing similar issues. The review will help ensure we have the best possible allocation of resources within the system so that programs are effective, efficient, and meet the needs of all our residents.   We will also reach out to front-line staff in our system, and traditional knowledge holders in our communities, to ensure that the recommendations are appropriate and workable on the ground level as to implementation.

Mr. Speaker, the comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Framework will guide program development over the next five years. It will incorporate the recommendations from the external review to improve program delivery and ensure client and community well-being. The Framework will provide the basis for the development of a Mental Health Services Action Plan, an Addictions Action Plan, and an Action Plan specific to Children and Youth.  

Communities and stakeholders have told us we need to improve the way we deliver mental health and addictions services to children and youth. Their mental health needs are distinct from those of adults, and require specialized services and supports. We recognize there is a critical need to enhance and improve services so that children and youth can receive appropriate care and services. This is a priority focus of the Framework and this is why we are developing a Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan specific to their needs.

The new Mental Health and Addictions Strategic Framework will also address access to on-the-ground, culturally appropriate services. Work in this area is already underway, and continues to expand. One example is a two-week pilot Mobile Treatment Program that recently took place in Fort Resolution beginning in late January. This pilot was quite successful and we will use the findings to help us develop more programs that are delivered at the community level. We will also continue to work with Aboriginal governments and communities to support the successful On The Land Healing programs that are developed to meet the unique needs of each region.

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to strengthening the mental health and addictions supports and services for our residents. The Action Plan that will be tabled later today is an important milestone in our work to improve the mental health system in the NWT, but it is also just one step in an ongoing process. I am committed to seeing that process through, and to making meaningful improvements within the term of this government. The new Strategic Framework will ensure that we meet this commitment so that residents are able to receive the appropriate service at every stage of their journey.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.