New Brunswick Health Minister announces changes to improve mental health care

The unfortunate incident of a death by suicide of a New Brunswick teenager has been one of the catalysts for a recent announcement by the Health Minister, Dorothy Shephard, of a plan to implement 21 recommended changes to the provision of mental health care.  The New Brunswick government plans to strengthen its mental health crisis and addictions response by implementing 21 new recommendations.

The changes are meant to enhance the province’s five-year mental health and addictions plan includes recommendations on improved staffing, education, training, and crisis response. These recommendations emerged from consultation between the Department of Health and the two provincial health authorities, Horizon Health Network and Vitalité Health Network. Recommended is the creation of a standardized suicide care pathway for patients presenting to the emergency department as well as education and training in trauma-informed care for front-line staff, police and first responders and expansion of emergency mental health teams to ensure 24-hour coverage. Other recommendations include what has been described as a “warm hand-off” process that would ensure a standardized transfer of patients to community-based services for follow-up after visits to the emergency department. The Minister has also pledged increased funding to the health authorities as well as funding for a team to provide services to children and youth in the Elsipogtog First Nation.