Province to axe funding to mental health treatment ranch

·3 min read

Health PEI is moving to cut funding for specialized mental health treatment at Serene View Ranch, a decision that will impact more than 60 Islanders.

“HPEI is responsible for public funds and therefore we are working closely with Serene View Ranch to safely transition clients currently receiving services back to the publicly-funded services,” said an email statement from Health PEI to The Graphic.

Psychologist Caroline LeBlanc owns the mental health centre in Stratford. It provides cutting-edge treatment, particularly geared for people with issues related to trauma and PTSD. Its work is unique in PEI. It attracts highly-qualified professionals and boasts little staff turnover.

Ms LeBlanc withheld comment at this time.

HPEI estimates between $50,000 and $75,000 in savings per month if all patients return to the public system.

Accessing services at the ranch through public funds has never been easy. Most clients had to acquire a referral, show a high level of need, and try to access all relevant provincial treatment options before funding was approved.

In some cases, Health PEI’s capacity to offer immediate services, considering wait lists and staffing issues, also led to funding patients at the ranch.

Stephanie Douglas of Charlottetown is one of the Serene View clients Health PEI funds.

“I had given up on the hope and dream to find one healing space where I always felt safe,” said Ms Douglas, who had tried various Health PEI services. “This is the first place I’ve truly felt safe. I would rather die than go back to the public system.”

High turnover rates of staff in the public system is one issue that concerns Ms Douglas. Having to open up and re-share the most traumatic parts of her life’s story multiple times is discouraging and in some cases re-traumatizing.

As a person of colour, she said, it can be difficult to find environments she trusts to mitigate subtle and overt racism. To date Health PEI, as a system, has not earned that trust. The intimate care team at Serene View Ranch has.

Chris Taylor of Charlottetown is another client funded for PTSD treatment at the ranch.

Before accessing mental health services at the ranch, Mr Taylor tried to work his way through HPEI’s system but didn’t find much long-lasting success. Cancelled appointments, termination of services and difficulty navigating the system made him feel like there was nothing left to help him, until he was referred to the ranch and began specialized treatment such as bio-feedback.

“I am confused as to how they plan to offer similar services. When I did go to Richmond Centre years ago, no such types of trauma therapy that I was aware of were available.”

A statement from Health PEI credits enhanced Mental Health & Addictions staff professional development and $1.5 million investment in accelerating the Community First Model for Mental Health and Addictions as the catalyst to transfer patients back to the public system.

The authority was not able to answer if more mental health staff have been hired, if staff turnover rates have reduced or if specialized therapies similar to those available at Serene View Ranch are now available through the provincial program.

Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic

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