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'Entirely unacceptable,' Nunavut's representative for children and youth slams GN response

OurMindsMatter FRONT

The Government of Nunavut's proposed improvements to mental health services for children and youth are "entirely unacceptable," in addition to being late, says Jane Bates, the territory's Representative for Children and Youth.

When it comes to the mental health of youth and children, the GN's proposed actions "lack substance, commitment, collaboration, and a sense of urgency," according to Jane Bates, the territory's Representative for Children and Youth.

“I have given the (GN) departments’ responses consideration and find that the proposed actions lack substance, commitment, collaboration, and a sense of urgency that the mental health of young Nunavummiut deserve,” Bates stated in a Tuesday news release.

The office of the Representative for Children and Youth determined that the GN agreed with six recommendations, partially agreed with five, and disagreed with one of the 15 recommendations made. For three recommendations, it remains unclear whether there's agreement or disagreement, Bates noted.

A final GN response was not provided until February 28, 2020 to the May 2019 report Our Minds Matter: A Youth-Informed Review of Mental Health Services for Young Nunavummiut. The GN was asked to submit its feedback by Sept. 30, 2019.

“My office has exercised patience and persistence when (GN) departments did not respond to requests for feedback, missed numerous deadlines to provide responses, when the responses provided inadequate information on the steps departments were taking to give effect to the recommendations, and when the information changed from one response to the next,” said Bates.

The office of the Representative for Children and Youth has referred the matter to the Commissioner in Executive Council.

Here are the recommendations from the report:

-The Department of Health and the Department of Education collaborate to ensure a full range of mental health services, including universal programming, targeted interventions, and intensive interventions are delivered in Nunavut schools. (The GN partially agreed.)

-The Department of Education ensure that all school staff, including Ilinniarvimmi Inuusilirijiit, guidance counsellors, teachers, support staff, and principals, receive basic mental health training on how to connect children and youth with appropriate mental health services and how to support them while this connection is being made. (The GN agreed.)

-The Department of Education enhance mental health literacy in schools. (The GN agreed.)

-The Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Justice, immediately address the consent
barrier that exists when students who may benefit from mental health services are identified in the school environment. (The GN partially agreed.)

-The Department of Health ensure that contracts that adequately meet service demands are established for out-of-
territory mental health services for children and youth where these services are not currently available in Nunavut,
and ensure that children and youth receive appropriate aftercare and follow-up upon return to their home communities. (The GN agreed.)

-The Government of Nunavut establish an in-territory facility that offers residential mental health treatment for children and youth, including, but not limited to, psychiatric, psychological, behavioural, and counselling services. These services should incorporate family engagement and healing and be grounded in Inuit knowledge, culture, and parenting practices. (The GN neither agreed nor disagreed.)

-The Department of Health implement recommendations iii(4) and iii(5) from the 2015 Coroner’s Inquest into Suicide, and apply these recommendations in cases of suicidal ideation in addition to suicide attempts. These recommendations state, in part, that the Government of Nunavut, Recommendation iii(4) Establish a formal follow-up protocol for individuals who have attempted suicide by April 2016. Recommendation iii(5) Change the Mental Health Act to allow for family to be contacted and immediately involved after a suicide attempt regardless of the age of the person who has attempted suicide. This should be systematic, and it requires also that Mental Health workers receive training and re-orientation to always develop safety plans and conduct counselling with the family present. This is a new recommendation that involves allotment of resources to re-training and a change in orientation to a more family and community intervention approach. To supplement recommendation iii(5), we further recommend adding the option of an alternative adult if a family member is deemed inappropriate. (The GN neither agreed nor disagreed.)

-The Department of Health clarify the position titles, roles, responsibilities, and reporting structure of all mental health-related positions to ensure children and youth are connected with the existing services that best fit their needs. (The GN partially agreed.)

-The Department of Health: A) finalize and deliver a comprehensive training program, that includes a substantial focus on delivering supports to children and youth, to mental health and addictions outreach workers; and B) ensure that in communities with more than one mental health and addictions outreach worker, one of these positions is dedicated to working with children and youth. (The GN partially agreed.)

-Nunavut Arctic College, in partnership with the Department of Health, offer professional education programs that build the capacity of the mental health workforce in Nunavut, and that these programs offer a focus or specialty related to child and youth mental health. (The GN partially agreed.)

-The Department of Health, or any other department hiring a mental health service provider: A) engage the services of Elders or cultural consultants to guide the delivery of mental health services; and B) offer an ongoing spectrum of cultural competency training and ensure that a minimum of one component is completed prior to the start of employment. (The GN neither agreed nor disagreed.)

-The Department of Health increase public and service provider awareness of existing mental health services available for children, youth, and their families. (The GN agreed.)

-The Department of Health develop a youth-informed public awareness campaign for children, youth, and their families to reduce mental health stigma. (The GN agreed.)

-The Government of Nunavut, under the leadership of the Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs, develop and implement an interdepartmental service coordination protocol for the delivery of child and youth-related services. (The GN agreed.)

-The Department of Community and Government Services, in partnership with the Department of Culture and Heritage, hamlets, and young Nunavummiut, develop and implement a territorial child and youth recreation strategy and action plan. (The GN disagreed.)

About the Author: Derek Neary

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