KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The NPD is my party, but one thing I have learned about journalism over the years is that when you are a journalist you have to be non-partisan.
I have interviewed many NDP MLAs, but also met with Liberal minister of Community Services Kelly Regan, and this week I spoke with Steve Craig, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Lower Sackville.
During my conversation with Steve Craig the $850 standard household rate for people with disabilities came up. Steve was saying that he strongly supports the fact that this rate needs to increase.
His office gets a high volume of calls relating to Community Services and mental health. Steve was telling me that poverty is no stranger to people living in his constituency.
Steve talked about the meaning of the term self worth and he talked about how everyone should live their lives with a sense of self worth. The $850 limits the ability of income assistance recipients to live life with such a sense of self worth. The more your sense of self worth is developed, the better you can improve your mental health, he believes.
I agree with Steve there.
We talked about my story, We really need a 24/7 drop in centre to tackle problems of social isolation.
Steve agreed that not everyone who has mental health health issues needs to see professionals like psychiatrists or psychologists. Steve and I also agreed that people should not have to wait weeks or even months to get in to see anyone, and mental treatment options should happen in a timely manner.
Steve felt that I was really on to something great when I mentioned My chat with Alec Stratford of the NS College of Social Workers about the need for a social prescription program to come to Nova Scotia. They have such a program in Ontario and according to my contact in Ontario it has worked wonders for people there who experience mental health issues. Steve said he personally would support the idea of this getting started up in Nova Scotia.
Steve also talked to me about his own area of Sackville-Cobequid where they also have some drop-ins and soup kitchens. Sackville also has its out of the cold shelter during the winter months.
Steve told me that there are a lot of homeless people living in the woods out in Sackville. Most of them cannot afford bus fare to get into the city where the homeless shelters are, and that is how the Sackville Warming Centre got started. Another place that helps people living in poverty is Beacon House. They have a used clothing store and a foodbank. The clothing store is not for profit and it is run entirely by volunteers.
In 2015 the PC caucus called for an inquiry into the mental health system in Nova Scotia. Wait times have climbed to over 300 days to get seen by mental health professionals in recent years. Steve and both agreed this is not acceptable for mental health consumers who need treatment ASAP.
In its platform the Progressative Conservative Party calls for a separate Department of Addictions and Mental Health.
I myself like this idea, and I emailed Gary Burrill to ask if the NDP would support this.
This is Gary Burrill’s reply.
“We in the NDP define “adequate funding,” in this case, as it is set out in our Mental Health Bill of Rights, which provides that 10 per cent of the overall health budget be dedicated to mental health, as recommended by the World Health Organization. Our Mental Health Bill of Rights provides for the transition to this level of funding by 2025. (…) Without this funding, no matter if you divide the current Dept. of Health and Wellness into 2, 4, or 20 separate government departments, will what’s needed in mental health services be provided.”
Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
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