Bossé pledges 'thorough, public' review of N.B. mental health services

·3 min read
Norm Bossé, New Brunswick's child and youth advocate, will conduct a review into the province's mental health care crisis services in the wake of Lexi Daken's suicide. (CBC News file photo - image credit)
Norm Bossé, New Brunswick's child and youth advocate, will conduct a review into the province's mental health care crisis services in the wake of Lexi Daken's suicide. (CBC News file photo - image credit)

New Brunswick's child, youth and seniors advocate says he will leave no stone unturned in ensuring his review of the province's mental health services is exhaustive, independent and public.

In a news conference Friday, Norm Bossé outlined the general focus of his review, announced earlier this week by Health Minister Dorothy Shephard and prompted by the death of Fredericton teen Lexi Daken last week.

He commended Lexi's parents for going public with their loss, noting "not all families would make that courageous choice."

"I commit myself and my staff to a tireless effort in these next few months to ensure that Lexi's loss is memorialized," Bossé said. "Was this death preventable? We must learn from these tragedies in order to avoid future loss of life … that is why we are going to give this issue a thorough review and investigation."

Lexi, a Grade 10 student at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton, was taken to the emergency room on Feb. 18 by a school guidance counsellor who was concerned about her mental health.

She waited for eight hours before going home without receiving any mental health intervention.

Less than a week later, Lexi died by suicide.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said she would ask for a review of services for mental health crisis care in the province, telling reporters Wednesday she stands behind her pledge to "fix this broken system." Bossé's review will be a cornerstone of that pledge.

Bossé sees public inquiry as 'complete waste of time'

On Friday, Bossé said he would hear from anyone who wants to be heard — from health-care workers to hospital management to youth themselves — and would consult with experts "across Canada and abroad, if necessary" as he works toward recommendations on how the province can improve services to youth and others in mental health crisis.

Participation in the review will be voluntary. Although he has the power to subpoena witnesses, Bossé said that in those cases "you wouldn't get a very co-operative witness."

He also addressed recent calls for a public inquiry in the wake of Lexi's death.

"Let me tell you something about public inquiries," Bossé said, noting he has been involved in two of them in his decades-long career as a lawyer and then as the child, youth and seniors advocate.

"The Miller Inquiry [which dealt with abuse at the Kingsclear Youth Training Centre] took three years and cost $1.7 million dollars."

Bossé said he doesn't have that kind of time, nor can the province afford to wait that long to take action.

"That would be a complete waste of my time and everyone else's. A public inquiry, in my respectful opinion, is not what we need to do."

An inquiry into the specifics of Lexi Daken's own situation is another matter, he said.

Bossé also set a timeline for completion of his review, saying he intends to have it completed by the end of July, when his tenure as child, youth and seniors advocate expires.

"I'm done July 31," he said. "That's the time frame."