Regional task force team to support mental health issues

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Marc Boychuk, Peace River Council Member and Facilitator of the Rural Mental Health Program in association with the Canadian Mental Health Association, submitted a request for a Regional Task Team to Peace River City Council . This team would help advocate for mental health support.

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“Currently, I communicate with [the councils] my role as a Community Facilitator of the Rural Mental Health Program in association with the Canadian Mental Health Association, not a member of City Council, as I have currently been elected,” Boychuk said.

This presentation was also given to the County Councils of Northern Sunrise, Grimshaw, Nampa and Berwyn.

The Municipal District of Peace, as well as the Municipal Councils of Peace River, Berwyn and Grimshaw have agreed to offer their support.

“I was about to give up that plea until Berwyn and Grimshaw contacted me for help. It gave me the idea to go regional and renewed my hope,” Boychuk said.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has been informed of this initiative and is ready to offer support.

“In my work with the homeless over the past few years, I have seen the need and the consequences of not having adequate mental health support. [These consequences have been on] our communities, its members, the RCMP, paramedics and hospital staff and services,” Boychuk said.

Boychuk added that rural mental health is a complicated issue in these communities and solutions must align with current issues.

“For meaningful change to exist, I believe the community needs to be the owner and director of local priorities and actions,” said Boychuk, “It’s clear that communities across the province are collaborating on promising practices focused on solutions related to health and well-being, as well as the identification of local priorities and potential collective approaches.

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A mental health and addictions task force would help create a community-wide support system and would also be a way to think differently about how communities can be involved in improving mental health.

“I intend to form a mental health and addictions task force to examine the challenges residents face in accessing mental health and addictions treatment and the consequences of these missing services,” Boychuk said.

This team would use eight council members from each local municipality and municipal district, as well as the RCMP and those who represent addiction and mental health services.

They would work to help youth and people with housing challenges, reduce the time spent by the RCMP transporting patients, bring together non-government and government health and community partners to improve service equity, decide what government defense is best to reduce barriers and assist in accessing services; and make recommendations about programs that provide care to youth.

Boychuk has been involved in many roles such as Métis Housing Tenant Relations Officer, ran a weekly addictions program at the Peace River Correctional Center (PRCC), member of the RCMP Advisory Board, North Zone Patient Advisor for Mental Health and Addictions with AHS, and a board member of the Rural Development Network (National Homelessness).

In his presentation, Boychuk also offered mental health statistics; one in five Canadians suffers from a mental illness and, by the time Canadians reach the age of 40, one in two will have had a mental illness.

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Mental illnesses and co-occurring substance abuse issues are also a problem in our communities.

“A co-occurring mental illness and addiction problem means that a person has a mental illness and, at the same time, uses substances such as alcohol or other drugs in a way that could cause harm,” Boychuk said.

People between the ages of 15 and 24 are more likely to struggle with mental illnesses or substance use disorders than other age groups.

“People with substance use disorders are up to 3 times more likely to have mental illness. More than 15% of people with substance use disorder have co-occurring mental illness,” Boychuk said, “[and] Canadians in the lowest income group are 3 to 4 times more likely than those in the highest income group to report poor to fair mental health.

During the years 2020 to 2021, 115 children were subjected to the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act (PSECA). During the years 2019 to 2020, 33 Albertans who received child intervention services died, six of them by suicide.

As reported in September 2021, 10,065 youth and children received child intervention services.

“Alberta is on track to report a record number of deaths of children and youth receiving child protection services or supports this year, and has begun removing young adults from child protection programs earlier. financial aid,” Boychuk said.

“The economic cost of mental illness to the Canadian health care and social support system has been projected at $79.9 billion for the year 2021,” Boychuk said. “Currently, the province spends approximately $1.7 billion a year on mental health and addictions.

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Some causes of these health problems include major life events involving violence and trauma and environmental factors (lack of access to services, leisure activities, access to health care, support from community and meaningful employment and education).

Boychuk said discrimination and stigma toward mental illnesses and substance use issues also create barriers when it comes to diagnosis, treatment, and access to necessities.

Some other issues are long wait times with services. Around 28,000 children and young people were on waiting lists in January 2020.

“No single person, organization or community can improve the mental health of everyone within communities and across systems. Therefore, meaningful processes that include diverse perspectives and partners are essential for healthier systems and people,” Boychuk said. “Mental health does not say that it is affected indefinitely. It evolves and changes within people and communities over time. Therefore, aim for progress, not perfection.

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