New Brunswick to make changes to mental health crisis and addictions response

The New Brunswick government plans to strengthen its mental health crisis and addictions response, by implementing 21 new recommendations.

The recommendations were submitted by the Department of Health, as well as the Horizon and Vitalité regional health authorities.

The changes are meant to enhance the province’s recently-announced five-year mental health and addictions plan, and includes recommendations on how to improve staffing, education, training, and procedures in the crisis response.

Read more: The story of Lexi Daken and a New Brunswick mother’s fight to fix a ‘completely failing’ system

“Recent events have highlighted the realities of suicide in the province and also the gaps in the addictions and mental health crisis response continuum,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard in a news release issued on Wednesday.

In February, the family of 16-year-old Lexi Daken called for changes to the mental health care system in the province after the Fredericton teen died by suicide.

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The Grade 10 student’s mother said the family initially took Lexi to the Doctor Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital on Feb. 18 after a guidance counsellor noticed she was experiencing mental health issues.

It took eight hours for Lexi to be assessed by a mental health professional.

According to her family, after those eight hours, a nurse told Lexi that calling a psychiatrist would take another two hours.

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The family said Lexi felt like a burden after she was asked something along the lines of, “Are you really going to make us call them?”

Lexi went home that night, receiving no immediate help. Less than a week later, she died.

Education, emergency departments, community addiction and mental health services

The recommendations include providing trauma-informed care training to emergency department staff, police and other first responders. The training will be designed for staff in busy emergency department environments.

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In addition to developing new educational material, the recommendations call for the finalization of the proposed draft Department of Health Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention Crisis Response Plan.

“Once finalized, implement accepted recommendations for suicide prevention, intervention and post-intervention,” the province notes.

Emergency departments will also implement a standardize suicide care “pathway” for screening, assessment, intervention, safety planning and “lethal means reduction” for every patient who arrives at the department with suicidal thoughts.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health is being asked to provide funding for support staff in both regional health authorities to address community addiction and mental health services.

— with a file from Karla Renic

More to come

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