October 5, 2005
(Health and Community Services)

New provincial policy framework for mental health and addictions services

John Ottenheimer, Minister of Health and Community Services, today released a new provincial policy framework for mental health and addictions services. The policy framework, Working Together for Mental Health, was launched during Mental Illness Awareness Week, from October 3-9.

“This new framework is the health and community services system response to the challenges faced by those who use the mental health and addictions system,” said Minister Ottenheimer. “It attempts to lay out the essential changes and resources needed to create a responsive mental health and addictions system that will better serve those in need of mental health care and address the needs of the province as a whole.”

Working Together for Mental Health sets out a comprehensive strategy for the mental health and addictions system that encompasses all age groups and the full continuum of mental health and addictions services. The policy framework recognizes that addictions services are an essential component of the broader mental health system and emphasizes the need for more attention on the prevention of addictions and other mental health problems. In addition, the policy framework acknowledges the important role of clients/consumers and their families in treatment decisions. The framework supports their full participation, and promotes greater responsiveness to their changing health and social needs by establishing better connections among all levels and parts of the health and community services system. Full implementation of the framework is a long-term commitment that will take some years to be realized.

Minister Ottenheimer was joined at the news conference by Colleen Simms, regional director of Mental Health and Addictions for Eastern Health, and Martha Muzychka, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“We are very pleased to see the new provincial mental health and addictions policy framework being released. Eastern Health, along with other regional service providers, consumers and families across our province has had considerable opportunity to provide input into these policy directions,” said Colleen Simms, regional director of Mental Health and Addictions for Eastern Health. “We are confident they will provide the necessary guidance to ensuring our system is prepared to address the future mental health and addictions challenges and needs within our communities.”

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experience mental illness, including addictions, have identified many challenges within the health system. These include isolation and discrimination, a lack of home and community supports, and little participation in their care and treatment decisions. The framework has been created to resolve these concerns. Five policy directions have been endorsed by the partners in the system. These include:

  • Enhancing prevention and early intervention;
  • Involving consumers and significant others;
  • Building bridges for better access;
  • Providing quality mental health and addictions; and,
  • Demonstrating accountability.

“The Canadian Mental Health Association welcomes the release of the mental health and addictions framework as an important next step in bringing mental health to the forefront of the wellness agenda for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Martha Muzychka, CMHA president.

Working Together for Mental Health was derived from best practices and provincial consultations with consumers of mental health services and mental health service providers. It takes into account regional and geographic variations as well as current and future projected demographic realities.

“Government is committed to providing mental health consumers with the resources they need to continue to access services which enable them to live healthy and fulfilling lives,” said Minister Ottenheimer. “The release of our strategy, combined with our commitment to move forward with a new Mental Health Act, will help to make meaningful progress in addressing mental illness in the province. However, we recognize that there is much more that needs to be done. This policy framework demonstrates our long-term commitment to creating a better mental health and addictions services system.”

Government will commence regional consultations on a new Mental Health Act next month with a goal of advancing legislation in the spring 2006 session of the House of Assembly.

The minister added that the policy framework is dedicated in memory of John Collins, a mental health consumer representative and team member, who was integral in the creation of the policy framework. “John was an invaluable member of the team who developed Working Together for Mental Health,” said Minister Ottenheimer. “I can think of no better tribute to his life and his commitment to addressing mental illness than to have this policy framework dedicated in his honour.”

In Budget 2005, government committed $3.4 million towards resources for mental health and addictions services including $1 million to implement the findings of the OxyContin Task Force and $740,000 to upgrade facilities, $1 million for enhanced mental health services for home and community supports and $740,000 for enhanced services for gambling addictions. These investments build on an additional $1 million investment in Budget 2004 to allow government to take immediate action on identified long-standing gaps within our mental health system; create more access to mental health services and treatment; and, in time, reduce the stigma that individuals suffering with mental illness face today.

Media contact:

Tansy Mundon, Health and Community Services, (709) 729-1377, 685-1741
Susan Bonnell, Eastern Health, (709) 777-1426
Martha Muzychka, CMHA, Newfoundland and Labrador Division, (709) 753-8550

2005 10 05                                       2:05 p.m.

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