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Canadian Psychiatrists Concerned About Trend in Federal Cutbacks to Mental Health

Ottawa, May 4, 2012 – The Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) is very concerned that recent cuts to mental health in areas of federal responsibility signal a general trend.

“The recent cuts to mental health in federal areas of responsibility are very worrying. If this continues it will restrict access to mental health services and hamper the government’s ability to measure the quality of, and access to, services and treatments,” says Dr. Fiona McGregor, the President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association.Unions have been notified of significant budget cuts to the Department of National Defence (DND) including the shutdown of a key unit that monitors mental health and contributes to suicide prevention. One of the positions deemed expendable as a result of the closure of the four-person Deployment Mental Health Research Section of Canadian Forces Health Services Group is held by the co-chair of the Canadian Forces Expert Panel on Suicide Prevention. An additional eight of 18 jobs in DND’s epidemiology section will also be cut, including epidemiologists and researchers who analyze mental health issues such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

“These cuts will seriously damage DND’s ability to monitor the health of Canada’s military members, identify critical issues and target areas for intervention,” says Dr. McGregor, “The surveillance work of Forces and DND researchers and epidemiologists is vital given that Canadian Forces members are generally excluded from health surveys conducted by Statistics Canada. This is particularly worrisome given the concern that suicide rates may be increasing amongst the military.”

Mental health services at Correctional Services Canada have also been affected. Forty-two employees at Kingston’s Regional Treatment Centre, a psychiatric facility on the grounds of the Kingston Penitentiary, were told their jobs would be affected by budget cuts. These include three doctors, 28 nurses, six psychologists, three social workers and two occupational therapists. Notices were received by a further 18 nurses and five psychologists at the Kingston Penitentiary which is slated for closure. At the Leclerc Institution in Laval three doctors, 28 nurses, six psychologists, three social workers and two occupational nurses were given notices.

These cutbacks are occurring despite three consecutive annual reports from the Correctional Investigator of Canada warning the Government that federal penitentiaries are fast becoming our nation’s largest psychiatric facilities and repositories for people with mental illness and that the number of offenders demonstrating serious mental health problems is growing. The 2011 annual report noted that despite a few important improvements, access to mental health treatment and intervention services in most penitentiaries remains inadequate.

Yesterday an article in The Ottawa Citizen quoted an internal report written by a group of civilian clinicians for the military. The report notes that a satellite mental health clinic at the National Defence Health Services Centre in Ottawa that treats some 40 Petawawa soldiers diagnosed with PTSD is slated for closure on July 1. There are plans to attract medical professionals, including psychologists, to the Petawawa Base, but nothing is finalized.

The federal government is responsible for providing health services, including mental health services, to soldiers and veterans, First Nations and Inuit, federal offenders, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, immigrants and refugees and federal public employees.

The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada’s 4,100 psychiatrists and more than 600 psychiatric residents. Founded in 1951, the CPA is dedicated to promoting an environment that fosters excellence in the provision of clinical care, education and research.

For further information:
Hélène Côté
[email protected]
1-613-234-2815 (232) or 1-613-297-5038