Throughout the pandemic, many Nova Scotians have found creative and innovative ways to secure comfort and support from family and friends. Neighbourhoods and communities have pulled together to maintain their wellness. At work, colleagues and teams have overcome differences and worked in their collective interest during the most challenging times.
However, we also know that the impact of COVID-19 has, and will continue to, extend far beyond the immediate risk of COVID infection itself, presenting even greater concerns for the mental health of Nova Scotians as they adapt to rapidly evolving changes to their daily lives. When it comes to mental health, no one is immune.
The Liberal Government made significant investments to expand and enhance mental health service delivery throughout the pandemic, including the recent establishment of the Office of Mental Health & Addictions. Budget 2021/22 contributed $1.5 million to support the new office and hired Nova Scotia’s first Chief Officer of Mental Health & Addictions to oversee the deployment of $336.5 million to sustain our mental health services and supports.
In 2021, the overall expenditure on mental health and addictions programming was increased by $12.3 million, establishing vital new services such as:
- Single brief intervention sessions
- Withdrawal management hubs to address substance-related harm and addictions issues
- E-mental health options to increase access to supports
The Rankin Government will monitor and build upon these investments, leveraging expertise in the psychiatric community to deliver new services designed to respond to the unique mental health needs of Nova Scotians.
Enhanced mental health walk-in services & street nurse program
Mental health professionals have observed and reported rising levels of patients presenting with mental health challenges and addictions related illness throughout the pandemic. These circumstances have created the need for additional services to fill gaps between inpatient and community supports to prevent hospitalizations.
The Rankin Government will invest $4 million annually to launch 8 new mental health walk-in clinics to ensure that Nova Scotians struggling with mental health issues can receive timely, appropriate, and dedicated treatment from a team of specialized professionals.
The new walk-in clinics will simplify the process of connecting to mental wellness supports by providing Nova Scotians with compassionate, reliable, and stigma-free care closer to where they live. Each clinic will be located close to a regional hospital to ease pressure on emergency rooms and create opportunities for referrals.
The clinics will be staffed by interdisciplinary teams of mental health practitioners and clinicians trained to provide culturally competent, trauma-informed, age-appropriate, and 2SLGBTQQIA+-aware care so that individuals who experience systemic oppression feel safe when seeking care. The Rankin Government will also invest $200,000 annually to fund new mobile outreach street nurses in CBRM. This will provide support for marginalized individuals who may be less comfortable accessing health services within facilities.
Impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable & marginalized communities
The global COVID-19 outbreak disproportionately impacted many of the most vulnerable and marginalized segments of our population. This has resulted in decreased health, employment, social and education outcomes for distinct communities.
A Liberal Government will provide an additional $1.75 million to the newly created Office of Mental Health & Addictions to support the identification of the unique mental health & addictions care needs specific to at-risk populations, including African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaq, Indigenous communities, recent immigrants and other vulnerable populations.
The Chief Medical Officer of Mental Health & Addictions will work in collaboration with academic experts including epidemiologists, and key stakeholders to create comprehensive care plans that are responsive to the local and specific needs of these diverse communities. They will implement evidence-based strategies targeted to best serve those populations and measure satisfaction and effectiveness.
Impact of COVID-19 on intimate partner violence
The rate of intimate partner violence in Nova Scotia has increased since the onset of the global pandemic. Several contributing factors, including prolonged periods spent in close proximity, pandemic related unemployment, financial strain and increased substance use have resulted in greater need for survivor support services.
Complimenting the significant investments in Budget 2021/22, a Liberal Government will commit $500,000 annually to hire additional social workers operating within existing Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Programs, to implement comprehensive screening and appropriate responses for domestic violence, while supporting the delivery of the Highest Risk Domestic Violence Framework.
Impact of COVID-19 on inpatient care
Throughout the pandemic, Mental Health & Addictions Services have witnessed increased acuity levels on inpatient units. Inpatient services play a critical role in providing safety and treatment for those who are most acutely ill. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressure on these resources and highlighted where further investments are required.
The Rankin Government will invest $1.5 million annually in new staffing and other supports to alleviate the capacity constraints on inpatient mental health services and ensure effective care is available when needed. These supports will require extended functional programming in hospital and resources for a much needed ‘step down’ unit to help transition patients safely and successfully out of the hospital and back into their communities. These will be evidence based, programmatic and include ongoing measures of their effectiveness and impact on health and well-being.
Family resource centres
Existing resources within the community health network provided invaluable support to Nova Scotian families and youth during the most challenging points of the pandemic. Family Resource Centres offered programs that reflect the specific needs of individual communities, including services ranging from youth programs, support groups, parenting programs, neighborhood safety, community meals, breast feeding support, cooking and nutrition programs, crisis intervention and much more.
These services proved essential to families requiring help in times of need, and provided simple comforts and social interaction to combat isolation. The ability to access these program offerings, for many individuals, prevented difficult situations from becoming much more severe. These programs must remain flexible and locally responsive, while becoming more formalized, with the aim of ensuring province wide access, integration and evaluation
A Rankin Government will continue to support Nova Scotia’s Family Resource Centres with an additional $2 million annual investment to help communities provide more services, deliver new programs and help more Nova Scotian families access community-based activities and services that support their well-being.