Grieving N.B. family supports mental health recommendations in hospital emergency rooms
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- The family of a teenager who died by suicide shortly after trying to get help in a hospital emergency room is welcoming promises to change the system.
Health Minister Dorothy Shepherd says the provincial government will act on 21 recommendations to improve mental health care in the ER.
"Recent tragic losses of young New Brunswickers certainly emphasize the need to focus efforts to improve crisis care in our hospitals," says Shepherd.
In February, 16-year-old Lexi Daken went to Fredericton's Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital to see a psychiatrist. Daken waited eight hours in the hospital's emergency department but wasn't able to see any mental health professional. Daken died by suicide six days later.
The government says it will move to implement a "standardized suicide care pathway" for any person who goes to an emergency department with suicidal thoughts.
The government says it will create "a therapeutic environment" inside hospital emergency departments for those seeking urgent help. A provincial system of virtual care is also being developed allowing smaller hospitals to be linked with mental health professionals.
The recommendations are part of the government's five-year plan to address concerns with mental health and addiction services. The provincial government didn't offer an exact timeline, nor budget for the 21 recommendations on Wednesday.
Lexi Daken's mother says the government's promise to act on all 21 recommendations is a "relief."
"If the government follows through with these recommendations and not let this report sit on a shelf for another 10 years, then people can start seeing an improvement in mental health care very quickly," says Shawna Betts. "That brings us great comfort to think that other families can get the care that their loved ones need."