Commitment includes insured coverage for children and youth
A New Democrat government would expand mental health care and make it more accessible, including providing free mental health support for children and youth.
“Mental health care is health care, plain and simple. We need to treat it that way,” said NDP Leader Cam Broten. “My plan will make Saskatchewan a leader in mental health care. We’ll start with providing insured coverage for children and youth, because that’s a significant first step to putting mental health care on par with other health care services.”
The Children’s Health Policy Centre, based at Simon Fraser University, says that mental illnesses “are arguably the leading health problems that Canadian children and youth face” and that “the early years are the optimal time to address mental health problems and avert poor life course outcomes.”
Broten’s pledge will significantly move the ball forward when it comes to mental health care in Saskatchewan. It includes:
- Covering mental health care as an insured service for children and youth, for up to eight counseling sessions per year – a move called for by the founding chair of Canada's Mental Health Commission.
- Reducing waits for mental health care appointments by creating two provincial mental health specialty clinics.
- Using the already-promised Quick Care clinics in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw to increase availability of mental health assessments.
- Hiring more mental health workers to be based in northern Saskatchewan.
- Expanding the Hub program to northern communities, to better connect at-risk individuals and families with the supports they need.
- Expanding a pilot program in which mental health and crisis intervention professionals are partnered with police officers.
- Covering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through Workers’ Compensation, a policy change called for by many, including professional firefighters.
Broten said he was especially inspired to do better while spending time in La Loche following the tragic school shooting in January.
“Teachers told me that they watch their students struggle with mental health challenges,” he said. “And while they described children coping with rage and depression, teachers and parents told me the wait for a mental health assessment is far too long. And often, because of the lack of resources, when the appointment finally comes, the mental health worker has been called away to a crisis.
“Intervening earlier for children and youth gives those kids a fighting chance. And they deserve that chance – regardless of where they were born, or how much money their parents make.”