N.B. mental health advocates hope government's plan leads to quick action
FREDERICTON -- Mental health advocates in New Brunswick say the province’s recent pledge to provide faster and more accessible mental health and addiction services is a welcome, but overdue form of help that can’t come soon enough.
On Feb. 23, New Brunswick health minister Dorothy Shephard revealed the province’s five-year addictions and mental health plan.
According to Shephard, the goal is to improve access to services, provide early intervention support, and reduce the impacts of drug addiction.
“I want everyone to know that this plan has clear goals, and will have regular check-ins to ensure all partners are accountable,” said Shephard during Tuesday’s press conference.
But advocates say the recent death of a Fredericton teen shows that change can’t come soon enough.
The day after Shephard announced the province’s plan, 16-year-old Lexi Daken died by suicide.
Her family says Daxen’s death came less than a week after she spent over eight hours in the emergency room at Fredericton’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital while waiting to see a psychiatrist.
Daken’s family says she felt like a burden and ended up leaving the hospital without seeing a psychiatrist. She died by suicide on Wednesday morning.
Lexi’s story has sparked anger across the province, with many believing help for those struggling can’t come soon enough.
“They talk about this youth facility for mental health being three to four years out, but that’s not good enough. People need help now,” says Kris Austin, leader of New Brunswick’s People’s Alliance party.
That help has now been promised to arrive by fall, as the province plans to create 13 walk-in mental health and addictions clinics across New Brunswick.
“It’s gut wrenching to think about Lexi’s situation. I agree with Lexi’s dad, her death can’t be in vain, changes need to happen,” says Christa Baldwin, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association of New Brunswick.
Baldwin says in 2019, CMHA New Brunswick worked with 86,000 residents, and that number has since increased.
Overdose prevention sites are also part of the province’s plan.
“It’s just one step to address with this crisis around addictions, which is to keep them alive,” says Debby Warren, executive director of Ensemble Moncton, a harm reduction group. “I don’t want to have what we’ve had in the last couple of weeks, people running down the street, bare feet in the cold, screaming for naloxone because someone is dying.”
Another project on the province’s list of priorities that could potentially save lives.