Friday, March 26, 2010

Tough decisions must be made

An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:
Mental health strategy will include eating disorder help

By Michael Lightstone

Access to eating disorder pro­grams in Nova Scotia is likely to be addressed in the province’s new mental health strategy, Health Minister Maureen MacDonald [pictured]said Thursday.

Though the plan is in its in­fancy — it was announced in the Dexter government’s throne speech at Province House in Ha­lifax — she hinted it could in­clude some sort of expansion of the province’s existing program. “We have a small eating disor­der treatment program for young people here in the metro area," MacDonald said after the speech. “So, people from other parts of the province . . . have to come here, and the wait lists are long." MacDonald cited the size of the program and its waiting list as examples of “some weaknesses, perhaps, in the (mental health) system that need to be examin­ed."

She was short on details, how­ever, and couldn’t provide a cost estimate for the NDP’s mental health blueprint. The govern­ment is projecting a $525-million deficit for the 2009-10 budget year.

“We will have something in the near future, and we will be look­ing forward to having a compo­nent that will allow for public in­put in the development" of the strategy, MacDonald said in an interview.

Part of that consultation ele­ment, she said, will be a regional conference in Halifax this fall to be hosted by the provincial gov­ernment.

Although MacDonald didn’t provide specifics, she acknow­ledged the province-wide strate­gy won’t be note-perfect or all-en­compassing.

“I’m not prepared to wait as minister of health until we have some perfect strategy developed before we take action," she said. “We already know that there are some things that are needed."

Critics of Nova Scotia’s mental health system have long com­plained there are deficiencies.

And a recent Chronicle Herald investigation found resources for treating the mentally ill are thin in some areas of the prov­ince and non-existent in others.

Asked about the stigma many people still attach to mental ill­ness, MacDonald said public opinion of those with emotional problems or in a treatment pro­gram has changed.

“There’s a lot less stigma today than there has been in the past," she said. “So, I’m hopeful. I don’t think that changing attitudes is an impossible thing, but I don’t think that it’s something that will be solved quickly."

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