On Friday, Health Minister Doug Currie presented the Mental Health and Addictions Review. He said all the right words. He spoke with compassion about the devastating effects of addiction. There were times that my eyes welled up with tears. We – the casualties of this disease - have waited so long to hear those words from him. Something was going to be done.
Many of us on this painful journey of addiction have learned to be skeptical until we see action. Talk is cheap. If all of these action items are put into place, we will see more Islanders, and the people who love them, break free of the chains of addiction. This will be our proof that this issue is being addressed.
Was the plan perfect? No.
Did it cover all the important areas that needed to be addressed? No.
Will it help to save lives? Yes.
Will it help to prevent youth from accessing prescription drugs? Yes.
Will it help to keep people out of jail? Yes.
Will it help our communities become safer? Yes.
Will it help to prevent the spread of disease? Yes.
Will it help to educate Islanders and reduce the stigma? Yes.
Will it help to support youth in recovery and improve outcomes? Yes.
Minister Currie promises to act aggressively on this file. This is good because there is no time to waste when you are dealing with this disease. This issue has been studied and talked about enough. The evidence is clear. The time to act is now.
Dr. Rhonda Matters has been hired as the Chief Mental Health and Addictions Officer. She will advocate for policies, programs, and actions that positively impact on the mental health and well-being of Islanders. This will be her sole focus so I am hoping for positive changes in a short amount of time.
Dr. Matters will also work with a patient-oriented Advisory Council made up of government and community representatives. I am excited about this Council because with the right mix of people, who truly understand the disease of addiction, it could be extremely effective in finding solutions to this problem – one of the biggest social problems of our time.
One of the things Dr. Matters wants to do is speak with members of the community who have been affected by addictions. I spoke to her briefly after the announcement and am looking forward to a longer conversation in the near future. Please be sure to share your experiences with her as well.
As I mentioned above, the plan is not perfect, but it will open the doors to help for a lot more people, which is great. There are some very important things missing such as access to residential treatment (for youth and others). I am going to put my trust in Dr. Matters that she will ensure that Islanders will have open access to this type of treatment off-Island until such time that we have our own facility. I also expect that it will be a priority to expand the offerings to individuals over the age of 24 who no longer qualify for youth programs. They desperately need support as well.
For the most part, I have chosen to focus on the positive things today. Those of us fighting this battle have been through enough negativity to last a lifetime. We have to embrace the positive when it comes our way. To me, this action plan is the first part of a gift – one that we have waited a long time for.
Our family received a wonderful gift in October when our son was finally offered adequate enough treatment for his disease. It has been many years since we had peace. We are so grateful to have it today. Our son still has a lot of work to do – recovery is not easy – but he now has the support he desperately needs. The treatment our son has received is going to be expanded under this action plan. This means that more people will have the same opportunity to recover, and they will not have to wait as long for help. To me, that is a reason to feel positive about this plan.
Our son is feeling good about life. He works full-time, goes to meetings, and is planning for the future. He also wants to give back by helping other people who are trying to find recovery. This is what happens when people get the help they need. Let’s embrace the plan for what it is offering now, and work toward getting the missing items in place in the very near future.
To find out what is in the report, please visit: http://www.gov.pe.ca/health/mhareview