The Canadian Mental Health Association launched its five-point mental health and addictions care manifesto in Oak Bay this morning.
“It has only been in the last number of years I think that we’ve actually seen people recognizing mental illness for what it really is, it is a medical issue. It’s not as visible as a broken leg, but it has the same, if not more impact on our community,” said Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen. “It will become clear this is a blueprint for change and a blueprint for moving forward. This is something that is region wide, it isn’t just Victoria and it isn’t just Oak Bay.”
The five-point plan calls for focus on prevention and early intervention; build access to addictions health care; strengthen recovery closer to home, in community; improve crisis care; and lead change in mental health and addictions.
As part of its year-long b4stage4 campaign, the manifesto lays out a set of concrete and practical actions to improve the lives of people living with mental health and addictions problems. The launch is a call to action for Greater Victoria to endorse CMHA’s recommendations for mental health and physical health to be valued equally.
“It touches all of the communities. We have 13 mayors here, we’re all going to be gathering as part of the Nov. 28 to 30 conference. and I think we all recognize the need for action because it touches all of our communities,” Jensen said. “In some communities perhaps it’s more visible particularly where we have significant amount of homeless people but it happens in the affluent areas too. Certainly as mayor I’ve come to know people who are in the throws of addiction in our neighbourhoods. They’re not as visible as they would be in other communities, but the problem is there and it is something that this manifesto … attempts to deal with.”
The Canadian Mental Health Association calls for community organizations, academic institutions, professional associations, labour organizations, elected officials and business leaders to value mental health and addiction care equally to physical health care. The CMHA manifesto says it’s time to focus on prevention, early identification and early intervention. Currently, people wait too long for care and too many people get their care from emergency departments and police. “We can offer proven choices and supports to help people recover—clinical services, medications, peer supports, counselling, family supports, and other therapies. And keep people connected to their families and their community. Intervening as early as possible preserves a person’s education, employment, social supports, housing—and It also costs less than the tragic revolving door of incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness,” the manifesto reads.
CMHA BC calls for creation of a standardized, compassionate, and evidence-based system of care, for people living with addictions problems.
More than 1,200 people have signed on to b4stage4 since the provincial launch on Oct. 11. Greater Victoria has the third-greatest number of overdose deaths in the province, next to Vancouver and Surrey.
Vancouver Island continues to have the worst rate of illicit drug-overdose deaths in the province in 2016, with a fatality rate of 18.5 deaths per 100,000 to the end of September. Island Health saw the largest increase in its fatality rate — 137 per cent — compared to 2015.