Nov. 27, 2020

Malcolmson has a major challenge ahead of her

Sheila Malcolmson got her marching orders from Premier John Horgan on her appointment as Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. The premier laid out an extensive and detailed list of hoped-for achievements in her letter of appointment. 

Some tasks stand out because of the impact they can have. The first is transferring recovery homes and private treatment providers to her department from the Health department to ensure quality care, accountability and value for money. And there’s a call for expanding the number treatment beds by building new treatment, recovery, detox and after-care facilities across the province with some beds specifically for British Columbians under age 24. 

The opioid crisis will also be on the front burner, including tackling the effects of the toxic illegal drug supply and working with other departments to push Ottawa to decriminalize simple drug possession for personal use. Another task is accelerating a full continuum of care: prevention, harm reduction, safe prescription medications, treatment and recovery. 

These have been the major challenges for a number of years with governments tied up in bureaucratic red tape. If Malcolmon can achieve a significant portion of the mandate we should finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.

She shared the premier’s mandate letter – it makes worthwhile reading. It's a four-page document, and this is only one page of it.

●  Given the impact of COVID-19 on people’s mental health, continue building a comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care, including by implementing A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people, and by expanding access to counselling, using new e-health and other technologies to bring care to more people in all regions of B.C. 

●  Accelerate B.C.’s response to the opioid crisis across the full continuum of care: prevention, harm reduction, safe prescription medications, treatment and recovery. 

●  Explore new ways to help prescribers separate more people from the toxic drug supply through safe prescription alternatives. 

●  Work with the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and the Attorney General and Minister responsible for Housing to fast track the move toward decriminalization by working with police chiefs to push Ottawa to decriminalize simple possession of small amounts of illicit drugs for personal use. In the absence of prompt federal action, develop a made-in-B.C. solution that will help save lives. 

●  With support from the Minister of Children and Family Development, lead work to continue our government's commitment to addressing mental health problems early by rolling out new mental health and addictions care initiatives for children and youth. 

●  Expand the availability of treatment beds for people by building new treatment, recovery, detox and after-care facilities across the province with some beds specifically for British Columbians under age 24. 

●  With support from the Minister of Health, transfer oversight of recovery homes and other private treatment providers to Mental Health and Addictions to ensure quality care, accountability and value for money. 

●  With support from the Attorney General and Minister responsible for Housing and the Minister of Health, lead work to provide an increased level of support – including more access to nurses and psychiatrists – for B.C.’s most vulnerable who need more intensive care than supportive housing provides by developing Complex Care housing. 

●  With support from the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, lead work to invest more in community-based mental health and social services so there are more trained front-line workers to help people in crisis, and free up police to focus on more serious crimes. 

●  Support communities in addressing street disorder and public safety concerns by expanding mental health intervention teams like the six new Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams recently announced for communities experiencing increased challenges with vulnerable residents. 

●  Support the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and interested municipalities to expand the successful 'situation table' model that connects front-line workers from different health, safety, and social service sectors to identify and help vulnerable people. 

●  Support the work of the Minister of Labour to develop better options for chronic work- related pain, including improving pain management practices for injured workers and providing treatment on demand to those with chronic pain as a result of workplace injuries. 

●  Support the work of the Attorney General and Minister responsible for Housing to address the needs of people experiencing homelessness, including those living in encampments.

People sometimes question the duties and performance of elected officials, especially cabinet ministers. This looks like Malcolmson will be burning the midnight oil on many occasions.