Good for Liberal Leader David Swann for reminding the NDP government it needs to take swift action to implement the recommendations of a mental health review released more than a year ago.
But with Mental Health Week currently underway, Swann told the legislature this week he expected more progress from the government as he called on the NDP to fully implement the report.
Dr. David Swann gave the following statement on the floor of the Legislature today:
“Yesterday, I had the privilege of moderating a panel discussion on indigenous youth mental health, which was sponsored by the U of C Mathison Centre and the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
“We heard directly from youth on the Kainai Board of Education, and watched a video about the Headstrong program, which is encouraging youth to talk about the stigma related to addictions and mental illness.
“Unfortunately, this stigma is still too common among our health professionals. In fact, there is a double stigma – first, for simply being indigenous, and, second, due to addictions and mental health issues.
“Another common theme was the lack of culturally-sensitive and more holistic approaches in our mental health system.
“Several panelists spoke eloquently of how traditional practices and mentoring from elders help them to break free from depression and addictions, and regain a sense of their identity and self-worth.
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has identified the long history of intergenerational trauma and its lasting effect on First Nations people.
“Updates to Alberta’s curriculum should be aimed at giving all Albertans a deeper understanding of this and encouraging further participation in the reconciliation process.
“Tragically, we continue to see increasing incidence of mental illness and addictions across Alberta, including opiates and preventable deaths, now approaching two per day.
“While I commend the government for increasing investment in this area, spending alone is not the answer.
“Since 2008, and the elimination of Mental Health Board, there has been a lack of consistent leadership and coordinated planning.
“System change is very difficult without strong, sustained leadership. And, once again, I must call on the government to consider re-establishing a provincial mental health and addictions officer.
“We need immediate implementation of the recommendations from the Valuing Mental Health Report, including the long overdue reform of primary care networks and their role in mental health.
“Timely system changes will not only save lives, but they will substantially reduce health costs and boost staff morale.
“On Mental Health Week, let’s reaffirm our commitment to reducing the stigma of addictions and mental health, supporting our indigenous peoples, and showing greater leadership to address the current opioid crisis.”
Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann says revenue from cannabis sales should be used to support mental health and addictions prevention and treatment programs, as well as initiatives such as the drug treatment courts.
Swann welcomes federal legislation on cannabis introduced in the House of Commons today, and calls on the province to ensure the revenue from the sale of cannabis is used appropriately.
“I congratulate the Liberal government on taking this important step to ensure children are protected and profits from the illicit sale of cannabis products are kept out of the pockets of criminals,” says Swann. “Now, it is up to NDP government to ensure these funds go to where they are needed most.”
Swann points out the province’s annual spending on mental health and addictions is well below the national average. He argues dedicating funds from cannabis taxation to prevention and treatment programs is consistent with the NDP’s practice of directing revenues from the carbon levy to reduce carbon pollution and encourage energy efficiency.
“The goal of any cannabis regulation should be to reduce the negative health impacts of drug abuse,” says Swann. “I can think of no better use of these funds than to expand prevention and treatment options.
“Addictions and mental illness often go hand in hand, so it makes sense to have this funding follow suit.”
Swann says the new legislation will also help to alleviate pressure on our overburdened justice system. He notes part of the funding from cannabis sales could go to expanding the drug treatment court system.
“Liberals believe treating drug addiction as a public health issue is far better than dealing with its consequences in the criminal justice system,” says Swann. “That is why we would also like to see an expansion of the drug treatment courts to accompany the new cannabis regulations.”
The province needs to come clean on the number of opioid incidents and deaths in its lock-ups, Alberta Liberal leader Dr. David Swann said Monday.
The Alberta Liberals are calling for a public inquiry into drug-related deaths of inmates at correctional facilities and remand centres.
Calgary, AB (January 23, 2017):
Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann wrote today to the Fatality Review Board to recommend that a public fatality inquiry be held regarding all deaths involving controlled substances in Alberta correctional facilities since January 1, 2012.
In the letter, Swann argues that an inquiry is urgently needed to identify present shortcomings and emerging best practices regarding preventing contraband from entering the province’s jails and remand centres; this issue has become considerably worse with the current opioid crisis, and puts inmates and staff at risk.
He also recommends that any inquiry should include a review of the staff training in mental health and addictions and medical resources available to incarcerated persons given their critical importance in reducing the demand for illegal drugs and, ultimately, death prevention.
Swann has also written to the Office of the Ombudsman to request an administrative review of the circumstances surrounding drug-related “near-deaths” in correctional facilities, since the Fatality Review Board has no mandate to investigate such cases.