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Mental Health and Addictions Services Under Staffed

Saskatoon (January 25, 2013) – The Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, the union which represents more than three-thousand specialized health care professionals, supports recent statements by Saskatoon’s Chief of Police that dealing with addictions and mental health problems is not a law and order issue, but a health care issue, Health Sciences President Karen Wasylenko said.

“It is time for the Saskatoon Health Region to be more accountable to the public and policymakers for its under-staffing of addictions and mental health services, and the unfair pressure this creates on other public services, including the police,” Wasylenko said.

“Health Sciences has been raising concerns about the under-staffing of addictions and mental health services in the Saskatoon Health Region for some time, including a recent decision to lay-off a full-time youth addictions counsellor, even though the waiting list for young people to see these professionals is six weeks or more,” Wasylenko added.

“While Saskatoon City Police arrest six to twelve people a day for public intoxication, the health region’s Brief Detox Unit has only twelve beds, and these beds are available only to patients who voluntarily enter, and who do not pose a risk to others. This means there is no health care service available to the police when dealing with people in custody due to addiction or mental health issues,” Wasylenko noted.

Saskatoon Chief of Police, Clive Weighill, made his comments in the media following the recent death of a 57-year-old man who was in custody after being arrested for public intoxication. There have been four similar deaths in Saskatoon in the past four years. As the Chief of Police stated: “we have to put an end to placing unfortunate individuals in police cells for non-criminal mental health addiction issues“.

“There are serious gaps in addiction and mental health services in the Saskatoon Health Region. An adult with an addiction will wait 8 to 10 weeks to see an Addictions Counsellor, and after seeing that Counsellor, wait another 4 to 6 weeks, before they can get into the region’s 32-bed Calder Centre, where they receive longer term help to try to recover from their addiction. The wait is even worse for those with mental health issues. The wait list for children to see a Mental Health Therapist is nearly three years, and for adults the wait is more than three months,” Wasylenko reported.

“Unlike surgical wait lists, Saskatchewan health regions are not yet required to publish their wait lists for mental health and addiction services or to report publicly on how they plan to reduce those wait times in the future. Health Sciences believes the public and policymakers have a right to demand more from health care employers, with respect to these other important health care services,” Wasylenko concluded.

For Further Information Contact:

Kate Robinson, Communications
Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan
306-221-6316

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