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Kendall Worth: My interview with PC MLA Steve Craig about mental health and poverty

Kendall Worth and Steve Craig (contributed)

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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  1. Politicians always say they want to help the poor when they are not in power. As soon as they are voted into office, whether it be as Premier, Mayor, Prime Minister, they do nothing, as has been done for the three decades that I’ve been on assistance. During that time, my income has only increased by $136 and most of that increase was recently with the $40 and four years ago with the $20. If the government was going to give us a significant increase in our cheques, they would have done it by now. People have been advocating for income assistance recipients for decades and still nothing changes. Do you really think our cheques will be up much more than another $140 in 2050? Just imagine what food will cost then and what will be the rent for a bachelor in Halifax in 2050!

    It’s too late for people like me who are soon going to die due to the effects of living in abject poverty our whole adult lives but I hope something gets done soon so another young person with serious health problems does not have to go through what I have been through for the last 30 years.

  2. I am living in a bachelor apt Clayton West. This is a more affluent area although I don’t have enough money to live on from my CPP which I was forced to take when I turned 60. I did not qualify for the Cerb so am on IA and living on much less. Ido not have a registered disability so only get 530 towards my rent which is a lot higher. There are little resources in my area to help someone in my situation but I do have safe housing so am afraid to let it go. I feel that I have fallen through the cracks somehow.

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