Sunday, July 16, 2017

Since the NDP-Green alliance’s priority list includes the appointment of a new minister dedicated to mental health and addictions, front-line workers have celebrated the attention — and expressed concern about extra bureaucracy in the midst of an overdose crisis.

Naming a new ministry or office to signal a government's priority areas is a trick long used in Alberta to little effect.
We've had this sort of stuff with the children in care where we go pendulum swing from one name to the next with the current government recreating a Children's minister for no appreciable change in the number of kids dying in care.
So what this represents to me is more money down the drain to pay for bureaucrats and increased pay for a MLA.
But there you go.
Welcome to the maze games of politics where in Alberta for example the advocates that cost us plenty have no powers to do anything for us but serve the useful purpose of keeping us busy and out of the way of the MLAs.

Instead of wasting more money into creation of new ministries and paying for yet more bureaucrats the best possible solution to the crisis in the mental health system might be to put the money on the front lines. Folks in crisis can't be sitting around waiting for a bed. They need help stat. It is troubling that the BC government might be doing what the folks in the GOA do all the time-which is increase the bureaucracy in response to a crisis situation. How will this help? It won't.
We know this in Alberta because the presence of an associate minister in Ms. Payne for example has not increased the efficacy of the department of Health and I see no point to the presence of a minister for mental health services in BC.
We also know that having yet more advocates such as the Seniors Advocate without any powers is simply a nonsense bit of work by the NDP folks in the GOA who have obviously learned well from the PCs that the best way to keep citizens happy when they have problems in the health care system is to provide them with an advocate with no powers to do anything other than take their information down and pass it to the health minister who will then do nothing.
Really it gets wearisome to see the same path being trod in every province. Make an office. Make it powerless. And pretend that you are taking action when you are really just sitting in place doing nothing.

Susan Brice has been listening intently as debates unfold about how effective a new minister of mental health and addictions could possibly be. For nine months in 2004,…
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http://www.theprovince.com/health/local-health/98champion+required+ministry+mental+health+addictions/13740033/story.html



‘Champion’ required for new ministry of mental health and addictions

AMY SMART, VICTORIA TIMES COLONIST(Vancouver Sun)
Published: July 15, 2017
Updated: July 16, 2017 2:10 PM
Filed Under:
The Province > Health > Local Health



For nine months in 2004, Susan Brice served as minister of state for mental health and addictions in Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal government.
For nine months in 2004, Susan Brice served as minister of state for mental health and addictions in Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal government.PHOTO BY ADRIAN LAM
Susan Brice has been listening intently as debates unfold about how effective a new minister of mental health and addictions could possibly be.
For nine months in 2004, Brice served as minister of state for mental health and addictions in Gordon Campbell’s B.C. Liberal government.
“It’s interesting and I feel, in some respects, in a bit of a unique situation, as I hear the talk of this minister being initiated,” said Brice, now a Saanich councillor.
Since the NDP-Green alliance’s priority list includes the appointment of a new minister dedicated to mental health and addictions, front-line workers have celebrated the attention — and expressed concern about extra bureaucracy in the midst of an overdose crisis.
Selina Robinson, NDP critic for mental health and addictions, has said the details of the appointment won’t be released before the cabinet is sworn in on Tuesday.
As a minister of state, Brice could advocate for mental health and addictions at the cabinet table, but still depended on the Ministry of Health budget.
“There’s always so much more that could be done, if we had more resources. It was like everything in the health care field: There’s no end of need,” she said.
While mental health and addictions have long been seen as linked by those on the ground, the ministry’s creation was one of the first political acknowledgments of that relationship.
During Brice’s tenure, hot topics included supervised injection sites in Vancouver and the creation of a program for pregnant women with addictions.
“I’m very pleased to hear that the new government plans to create a ministry for mental health and addictions,” she said. “I really feel, first hand, I know the problems. And however they structure it, either within the or as a stand-alone, I think it can only do good things.”
Ministries can be created or renamed to signal a government’s priorities.
Political scientist Norman Ruff said the Ministry for Native Affairs, set up in 1988 in Bill Vander Zalm’s Social Credit government, was among the most important ones created in recent memory. “It signalled a complete break from the traditional B.C. assertion that First Nations issues were purely federal matters and has, of course, evolved into today’s reconciliation focus,” Ruff said.
When Premier Christy Clark shuffled her cabinet in 2012, she added “natural gas” to the Ministry of Energy and Mines portfolio, signalling a commitment to liquefied natural gas development — a major element of Clark’s campaign platform.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave many of his cabinet positions new titles to highlight his government’s priorities. Environment became Environment and Climate Change, Citizenship and Immigration became Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, and Aboriginal Affairs became Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
The biggest political value in creating a dedicated ministry is the message it sends, said Michael Prince, Lansdowne professor of social policy at the University of Victoria.
“In the short term, what it does is signal that there’s someone around the cabinet table who is there to champion this specific issue,” Prince said. “Clearly, this is a crisis of incredible proportions, so it’s to create focus politically.”
The new ministry could take many forms, he said. The appointee could act as a junior minister, under the minister of health, or could lead a stand-alone ministry.
“That’s the sort of stuff Horgan’s chief of staff will look at, around the machinery of government. The nuts and bolts,” Prince said.
The minister, to be named Tuesday, would likely have a background in mental health or addictions, given the urgency of the crisis, he said.
“If you’re going to put a new MLA in there, it would have to be someone who brings with him or her some life and career experience that really tells us instantly: ‘I get it,’ ” Prince said.
“Whoever gets this portfolio will have to engage in some immediate reassurance, as well as quick action. And develop a plan, almost to say: ‘Forget that we’re in a minority, we need to lay out a two- to four-year strategy. And we’re not just saying that so that everything is done in year three or four. We need to get some things done within six months,’ ” he said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall warned that although mental health and addictions could use an infusion of policy leadership and resources, the creation of a new ministry could be a distraction.
“You want to be careful about not pulling things apart,” Kendall said. “An awful lot of time can be spent within the bureaucracy.”
Naming a dedicated minister outside of the Ministry of Health could mean spending time determining staff roles, budgets, access to information and how to communicate between ministries for services such as MSP and pharmaceutical services.
Time is of the essence, he said, especially in the midst of the opioid crisis that killed 935 people in B.C. last year.
Kendall said he has met with Robinson and is optimistic about what the incoming government will do.
Trevor Franklin, who runs two recovery homes for men in Victoria as part of the Together We Can non-profit, said a dedicated minister might result in a shift in attention to addictions.
Franklin said more resources could speed up the process for someone who wants to get a detox bed, which can take weeks, and increase the number of post-detox support homes like the ones he runs.
“For someone in crisis, it can be a very daunting experience to get into detox, because of all the referrals, self-referrals, you have to call in every day. There’s a long wait, and I find that very frustrating,” he said.
“Where I think they need to invest is in recovery homes and sober living. I get it, harm reduction is necessary. It’s absolutely saving people’s lives and we need it. But we also need to give people an opportunity to live in a recovery home where not everyone around them is using.”
asmart@timescolonist.com
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Graham Evan MacDonell
We seem to create 'ministries' for eveyr issue that pops up. There should be a limited number of ministries and cabinet ministers. One, a Ministry of Natural Resources that incorporates forestry, agriculture, fishing and all things pertaining to the land, like mining. Under a Minister, several secretaries of State could exist to over see these areas. Ditto with Human Resources, with Secretaries of State for Health, Mental Health, Education, etc. There should be no more than five cabinet ministers who would also make up the Executive Council....a hold-over term from colonial days. Each minister could have up to five Secretaries of State.......with such MLAs limited to only one-third of the toal number of MLAs elected for the governing party.....in other words, 40 MLAs......13 Ministers and Secretaries of State; the rest.....ordinary MLAs. We need a lean government, not one feature-bedded like we see in most unionized work locations.
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Julie Ali · 

I tend to agree with you. The more bureaucracy there is the less money there is for the folks who actually need it. In Alberta for example we have this tendency to make more and more positions for no purpose.

The PCs were especially good at this sort of illusionary responsiveness to problems. For example the PCs created the Health Advocates Office, the Mental Health Advocate, the Protection for Persons in Care Office, the Child and Youth Advocate, the Ombudsman's Office--all of these offices have no power to enforce their findings or reviews and so what's the point of having them?

Then we have the NDP government create the Seniors Advocate which appears to be a temporary office to satisfy the citizens who want changes in the poorly functioning continuing care system.

The real problem is poor governance which won't be improved by dividing up the same revenue pie among more folks at the table of government.

The real solution? Government needs to do it's job and stop pretending that the creation of costly advocates offices for example is an effective answer to the real failures in performance.

It is doubtful that any political party is going to stop creating more bureaucrats and pretend protectors. It's just amazing to me that we have to pay for all this useless illusion creation in government.
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