Auditor General finds AHS lacking on mental health and addictions strategy

by Morinville News Staff

Alberta Auditor General Merwan Saher’s report issued Monday found that Alberta Health “failed to properly execute” a five-year strategy on mental health and addictions, announced by the PC government in 2011.

The province’s Wildrose Opposition was quick to criticize the failure outlined by Saher in his report.

“Today’s report is just another example of AHS failing to meet any of its targets or strategies set out from four to five years ago,” said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean in a July 6 media release. “Albertans deserve leadership on the health file that focuses on people served and not just dollars spent.”

Sarah Hoffman, Alberta’s Minister of Health, accepted all recommendations on mental health in the Auditor General’s report ad said she will work with AHS to review the province’s mental health system.

“People who suffer from addictions and mental illness experience an incredible amount of pain and hardship,” Hoffman saidin a July 6 release. “Their friends and family members suffer as well. We need to fully implement and measure the addictions and mental health strategy, so people get the care and support they need.”

Hoffman went on to say that due to the complexities involved, her government have asked MLAs David Swann and Danielle Larivee to “undertake a full-scale review of Alberta’s addiction and mental health system.”

Morinville Psychologist Thomas Holmes said he believes the Morinville Mental Health Clinic does an excellent job supporting youth and adults; however, many families report long wait times as a result of the volume accessing supports in Morinville.

“Several years ago, AHS had a therapist leave and did not replace them,” Holmes said. “Ultimately the other health-related supports in our community do not matter if the mental health needs of our citizens are not met.”

The psychologist said long wait times for appointments had resulted in many of his clients coming to his office instead of going to the clinic.

“People in crisis also come to my office because often these clients have been referred to other mental health clinics in the area,” he said. “This is always not a great option.”

With respect to AHS, Holmes said he believed they have the structure in place to provide services.

“They have some amazing local therapists and addictions counselors,” Holmes said. “I have collaborated on projects with many of them and cannot speak highly enough of their expertise and professionalism.”

But it is the decisions of AHS top management that leaves the local psychologist most baffled. “Often is it is the decisions from top management that are baffling – such as the dissolution of AADAC,” Holmes said. “This branded commission of AHS was excellent at meeting the addiction support needs of Albertans. AADAC had brand power in the community. When you needed addiction support, you went to AADAC. This is one simple example.”

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