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The Mental Health and Addictions Political Forum

On Tuesday August 27 I participated in the Mental Health and Addictions Political Forum along with the Hon. Cameron Friesen for the Progressive Conservative Party,  Uzoma Asagwara with the NDP Party and Andrea Shalay with the Green Party.   My opening comments are below: 

Welcome all of you who are here, and thank you for coming.
For many years, brain, mental health and addictions have been poor cousins to physical health in Manitoba.  It does not have to be this way.
A Liberal government will make dramatic improvements to our situation.
In addition to effectively addressing poverty and homelessness,  we will create a province-wide multidisciplinary specialist network for Brain, Mental Health and Addictions based on the successful Cancercare Manitoba model.  It will report directly to the Minister of Health, as Cancercare Manitoba does, but will be different from Cancercare in that the role and the importance of numerous and varied community based partners will be much larger.   It will work with all organizations to implement recommendations from  our 2016 Liberal report “Optimum Brain Health for All Manitobans” and the Virgo Report.
A major part of our platform, is to bring psychological therapies under medicare.   This is essential to give Manitobans access to needed psychological therapies. We will model our approach on the highly successful IAPT, increased Access to Psychological Therapy program which has gone from no program before 2008 to a program with centres all over England, centres run by organizations like the partners supporting tonight’s  debate.  It now sees a million people a year.   They have outcome measures on better than 98% of those treated.  And they have had phenomenal success. The prestigious journal Nature says it is “world beating”.    We will bring it to Manitoba.  [This will mean training 250 additional psychological therapists in the next four years and establishing about 50 locations around Manitoba which will deliver the program].
And we will not stop here.
We will embrace peer support workers – because they are very effective in helping those with brain, mental health and addictions issues and are cost effective in saving money.      
Our efforts will start young.  We will support children and families with a major improvement in support for early childhood education and child care.  
We will cover the cost of psychological assessments and the treatment of children with learning and behavioural conditions under medicare.  It is essential that we identify children with learning and behavoural difficulties early on and help them quickly.  This is a very personal issue for me as one of our sons had a reading difficulty a form of dyslexia.   This can help many children do well and also prevent a significant amount of mental illness.   Manitoba Liberals will also support brain and mental health education in schools.  Every child should be taught Mental Health First Aid.
We will also address addictions: 
Help for those with addictions needs to be there when a person needs help and it needs to be seemless so there are no gaps, between stabilization and detoxification and between detoxification and treatment, and there needs to be follow up beyond treatment – sometimes with longer treatment to achieve the best results and always with a period of support away from the triggers which lead the person to take alcohol or opiods or meth.  We will work with all involved throughout the province to make the needed changes to achieve success.
To achieve a coherent, coordinated and comprehensive system.   Manitoba Liberals will set up a 24/7 virtual addictions line and coordination centre as an entry point and as a step toward improved function and results.  We will also have an effective approach to prevention.  We can benefit from existing preventive programs  - like that offered by Drug Free World. 
And we need to be able to respond to public health emergencies in brain, mental health and addictions.   In 2009, there was a major response to the H1N1 flu which was rapid and effective.  Yet in 2017, when the meth crisis emerged and the police and many others raised the alarm about how serious it was, and when I raised this in the Manitoba Legislature as a major problem, our calls for action were met by attacks on us and by the response “it’s too complicated.”  We need in such circumstances to be ready for the crisis and to be able to respond quickly.  
Manitoba Liberals believe that mental health and addictions emergencies should be treated as effectively and with an adequate response just like physical health emergencies should be treated.    Thank you for this opportunity to speak tonight and to present our Manitoba Liberal perspective.

For a full video of the Forum, you can go to the links below.


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