Nova Scotia is once again developing a mental health plan. I have been active in mental health in the Province since 1995 and have seen at least half a dozen or more Provincial and Regional planning processes addressing mental health over that time. Some “wag” once said that if the number of mental health plans sitting in the Department of Health where laid end to end then we would have a pathway of good intentions leading from Province House to the Elephant and Castle.
While I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that comment I can certainly resonate with the emotions behind it. And in a recent story on this issue the Chronicle Herald newspaper reported a similar concern by a participant about the current process: “"These are the same issues that have being going on for 25, 30 or 40 years now," one person said. "What’s going to be different?"
That is an excellent question.
The issue frankly is not that we do not know what to do. The previous Bland Report had a number of excellent recommendations that have not yet seen the light of day in Nova Scotia. The newly available document from the MHCC provides a useful call to action. The Evergreen Framework provides a set of values and strategic directions that could be easily incorporated by the Province in addressing child and youth mental health now. The World Health Organization has produced realms of useful documents/materials ranging from the MHPP monographs to the mhGAP. Recently released mental health documents from British Columbia and Ontario have excellent components that could easily be modified for use in NS.
And the list goes on.
The issue is doing, and making sure that what is done is based on what we know and supported by strong and independent evaluation of what we are doing so that we can change things that are ineffective or inefficient and replace them with actions that are effective and efficient.
We also need to ensure that the appropriate funds are in place to permit necessary action to happen. The mental health budget for Nova Scotia is woefully inadequate. No plan will be useful if it is not properly resourced.
So what will happen? Follow the money!