N.S. PCs say plan for mental health, addictions would be 'most progressive' in Canada

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Nova Scotia's Official Opposition wants to overhaul the system currently in place to help those struggling with their mental health as well as those dealing with addiction.

The proposed plan would create "the most progressive mental health support system in Canada," Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Houston said Wednesday as he unveiled his party's plan.

That plan includes:

  • Allowing private practitioners, including psychologists, counsellors and social workers, to bill the province to provide care to those without private insurance.

  • A 24-hour-a-day mental health support service over the phone.

  • A dedicated 9-8-8 mental health crisis line.

  • A promise to boost the budget for mental health services by $100 million a year, which is a 30 per cent increase.

  • The creation of a separate and distinct department of mental health and addictions.

Speaking to reporters at a Halifax hotel, Houston said access to mental health care should be universal.

"There's many parts of our community that can't afford private care, so they do without," he said. "There's many parts of our society that don't have private coverage through their employer, so they do without.

"I don't want them to do without it. I won't allow them to do without under my leadership, under our government."

Jean Laroche/CBC
Jean Laroche/CBC

Bringing in private practitioners to provide care is an attempt to lower wait times for care deemed non-urgent, which range from a nine-day wait in Colchester County to a 238-day wait at Cape Breton clinics, according to the Health Department's website.

This is the second major policy announcement Houston has made in recent months.

In August, he announced his party's plans for long-term care in the province. The PCs have promised to invest nearly $1 billion in creating at least 2,500 to 3,500 single bedrooms over a three-year period.

Houston acknowledged the plans could be seen as platform planks for a-yet-to-be-called provincial election, but he said Nova Scotians have a right to know where he and his caucus stand on important issues facing the province.

"It's important to us that Nova Scotians know what we stand for and know where our focus will be and know what we will do," he said. "That can be described as a platform."

Houston described the McNeil government's reorganization of health administration into a single authority as "a disaster," but he defended his party's desire to create a stand-alone department of mental health and addictions.

"For me, looking specifically at addictions and mental health, it needs a focus that it's not getting," said Houston. "It needs a focus at the highest level of government."

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