Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Unveils Mental Health Plan to Identify and Address Issues Early: N.S. Wants Early Action on Mental Health

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Nova Scotia Unveils Mental Health Plan to Identify and Address Issues Early: N.S. Wants Early Action on Mental Health

Article excerpt

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government will place more clinicians in schools and assess children as young as 18 months old as part of a broad mental health strategy aimed at intervening early and reducing wait times for care.

Health Minister Maureen MacDonald laid out the province's first mental health strategy Wednesday, saying it will provide $5.2 million for various initiatives in the first year.

MacDonald said the focus of the five-year plan will be on identifying potential mental health conditions early and trying to deliver care to people outside of hospital settings, if possible.

"We need a system that's more community based, we need faster access sooner and we need to intervene earlier," she told reporters.

"These are all things that will provide us with much different results so that people don't end up in crisis."

The province plans to increase the number of schools with psychologists, nurses or social workers to about 80 as part of an ongoing program to detect mental health concerns, start treatment or refer young people to specialists.

MacDonald said early detection is critical since 70 per cent of mental illnesses begin before the age of 25.

She said they will also screen every child for mental health conditions at 18 months of age to identify any developmental delays and provide suitable treatment.

But Liberal health critic Leo Glavine said that while the initiatives are laudable, the NDP hasn't provided enough health-care workers to handle any increase in the number of people needing care.

"Now we're going to get early interventions and more assessments and diagnoses, but we don't have the resources -- that's the whole issue," he said.

"We do not have enough mental health experts."

MacDonald, a former social worker, said the province is expanding a 12-week telephone-based program that helps families manage children with mild to moderate behaviour problems.

She said they will also boost the number of peer support workers to help people with mental health disorders transition from hospital to their communities.

Stephen Ayer of the Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia praised the strategy, saying it was key to identify mental illness early to prevent the development of more serious, chronic problems. …

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