N.B. short 24 psychiatrists while need for mental health service grows
FREDERICTON -- The New Brunswick Medical Society says there are 102 psychiatrists in the province, and the government has 24 vacancies listed on its career website.
Dr. Jeff Steeves says more mental health support positions are needed to address the gaps in the system.
"We need to fill those 24 psychiatric positions. If there was a full complement of family doctors, that's where the entry to mental health services sometimes begins," he said. "We need to increase mental health service workers from social workers to counsellors in this system. Clearly there's increased demand and there will be a cost associated with that."
Thursday marked one week since the family of Lexi Daken decided to speak out about her suicide.
The 16-year-old tried to see a psychiatrist at the Everett Chalmers emergency room in Fredericton less than a week earlier.
She never saw one, despite waiting for over eight hours, according to her family.
Her story has sparked calls for the N.B. government to transform the mental health care system, specifically the youth system.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced a review into crisis services would be conducted by Norm Bossé, the province's child, youth and seniors' advocate.
Bossé is expected to speak on the scope of that review Friday.
New Brunswick's provincial government has gradually been spending more money on mental health services, but it still amounts to a very small part of the overall health care budget.
According to estimates for 2020/21, N.B.'s healthcare budget was just over $2.9 billion dollars. Of that, mental health services used up about $121 million – just over four per cent of the overall budget.
But according to reports by the Health Department, one in five New Brunswickers face a mental illness in their lifetime.
And about 51 per cent say they're at risk of developing negative mental health impacts because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021/22 N.B. budget is scheduled to be tabled on March 16.