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Phoenix Society statement on BC Budget 2021

Phoenix Society statement on BC Budget 2021

Record investment in recovery and treatment, but gaps remain in mental health support

Phoenix Society is pleased to see B.C.’s Budget 2021 include significant investments in supports for youth struggling with mental health and substance use, as well as record investments in treatment and recovery supports for all. This $500 million in investment will help expand life-saving services and programs needed to support British Columbians.

“We are thrilled to see the provincial government making significant strides in moving upstream to provide supports to children and youth. We know that childhood and adolescence is a crucial period for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits important for mental health. Promoting psychological well-being and protecting children and youth from potential risk factors that may impact their ability to thrive are critical. There is a crucial need for both community-based support services and more intensive treatment services for youth,” said Keir Macdonald, CEO of Phoenix Society.

The Canadian Mental Health Association reports that 84,000 children and youth in B.C. live with a diagnosed mental health condition, yet less than one-third of those who seek help are receiving mental health services. That means as many as 58,000 children in B.C. are not receiving the treatment they need. Further it is estimated that 68,000 youth between the ages of 15 and 24 meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.

“Expanding much-needed mental health and substance-use services for young people, to the tune of $98 million over three years, is an integral part of our efforts to support youth effectively and in our fight against the drug poisoning crisis,” said Macdonald. “However, we worry about the significant number of adults currently struggling with mental health that don’t seem to have been captured in this budget. To truly support British Columbians and their mental health needs during this difficult time, we believe registered psychologist and counselling sessions should have been made free by providing coverage through MSP. This is a missed opportunity and there is a risk that adults will be left behind in the mental health space.”

“The B.C. government’s record investment of $500 million for mental health and addiction services and support over the next three years is worth praising. Of that, $153 million is allocated to opioid use treatment and another $133 million to treatment and recovery services, part of which will create 195 new substance-use treatment and recovery beds. Phoenix Society is pleased to see a focus on bed-based substance use services in the budget, as these provide a range of treatment and psychosocial supports to those struggling with substance use and offer a structured and supportive setting for those experiencing significant barriers to care such as homelessness and housing insecurity. We are glad the government recognizes that improving access to these services are crucial in developing a stronger system of care,” noted Macdonald.

Phoenix Society is also pleased to see $45 million in funding allocated to maintaining and ramping up vital overdose prevention services in the BC Budget.

“We are happy to see the provincial government focused on enhancing the capacity of people to provide life-saving support by increasing access to overdose prevention and drug-checking services, focusing on training health care professionals to prescribe opioid agonist treatment, and creating access to pharmaceutical alternatives to the toxic illicit drug supply. Last week we recognized the grim anniversary which marked 5 years since the public health emergency regarding drug poisonings was first announced. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen significantly more people die from drug poisonings than from COVID-19 and it is time to start treating it with the same level of urgency and funding as COVID by investing in a comprehensive strategy to save and help improve people lives. We are encouraged that this budget will see emergency measures put in place during the pandemic made permanent, including drug consumption sites and outreach teams.”

Since 1989, Phoenix Society has grown from an idea, to its first recovery programs and is now a multi-faceted, integrated service provider that offers a variety of programs and support services, helping residents and program participants achieve positive outcomes in their lives. A key purpose of the Surrey-based Society is to provide housing and support services for people at multiple entry points on the continuum.

For media inquiries contact:
Amy Reid, Fund Development and Communications Manager
[email protected]
604-726-6107