Nova Scotia commits to more psychiatrists
HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government vowed to boost the number of adolescent psychiatrists after a report highlighted deficiencies in the mental health care of young people who are seeking help at increasing rates.
Health Minister Leo Glavine said Wednesday that he would look to recruit more professionals who treat youth with mental health problems, challenging a different report that called for a reduction in adolescent psychiatrists.
"We will need to bolster the number of clinicians to meet these recommendations," Glavine said after the release of the review, which was launched following the death of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons.
He said youth mental health care is an area he takes personally from his days as a school administrator.
"Having been there with a family to grieve after a suicide touches me very personally and I will be personally very disappointed at the end of my time as minister if we haven't made good steps forward."
Jana Davidson, an expert in children's mental health in Vancouver, was appointed to lead the review after an earlier report into Rehtaeh's case raised concerns about the IWK Health Centre.
Davidson found several weaknesses in the system, ranging from a lack of mental health physicians, disjointed care from different departments and poor physical health care for 17- to 19-year-olds.
In particular, she said older teens who suffer from physical or sexual assault and mental health issues are moved between the adult health authority and the children's hospital.
"The current divide creates serious barriers to care, including the discontinuity of care and unnecessary delays in receiving timely and appropriate care," the report says.
It recommends integrating all health care for children and youth up to age 19.
Davidson also stressed the need for trauma-informed care so that physicians and clinicians are aware of and can tailor the needs of a patient to a particular trauma they may have experienced, like sexual or physical violence.
It is something Glen Canning, Rehtaeh's father, wishes were in place when his daughter sought care at the IWK in March 2012, about five months after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by four boys.
She attempted suicide in what her family says was prompted by months of bullying. She died in April after she was taken off life-support.
Canning says she felt like she was being treated like a delinquent at the IWK, rather than someone who went through a great deal of trauma.
"Hopefully, the people helping her can understand why she's upset and why she's suicidal and they can treat her in accordance with that, rather than believing she's just upset because she's a bad kid or a troubled teen," he said in an interview.
"So I think that's going to make an absolutely huge difference in the mental health services. I really do."
The IWK says it has seen the number of referrals for mental health care rise sharply this year, along with the number of patients treated in the acute care psychiatric inpatient service which rose to 438 this year from 207 in 2009.
Nova Scotia's Health Department says the province had 17 child and adolescent psychiatrists last year, up from 15 in 2009.