By Deborah O’Connor
A press release from the Central East LHIN was widely circulated on Dec. 16 announcing public consultation on a new and improved service delivery model for mental health care provided in Kawartha Lakes, the city and County of Peterborough, Haliburton and Northumberland Counties. The focus of the review is actually somewhat more restricted than that, dealing essentially with the future of two branches of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA); those in Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough. The recommendations up for discussion were developed by senior managers at those branches, along with their equivalents at the Central East LHIN and CMHA national head office. There was an initial consultation process last summer and this last kick at the can is to review and comment one final time before they’re presented to the board of LHIN in late January.
Trouble is, Central East LHIN wants feedback by January 6th, less than a week after New Year’s Day and with Christmas Day coming only nine days after the press release. That guarantees a mimimum of feedback and most surely the consultation was designed exactly for that reason. With stakeholders in the mental health field extremely busy counselling clients struggling with their seasonal demons at this stressful time of year, along with readying their own families for the holiday, there won’t be much free time to read the materials, consult with peers, formulate a position and communicate it to the LHIN by January 6th. Not much time at all.
That’s not the only troubling part of this. While stating in the initial paragraph of the press release that Northumberland County is included in this review, it must be said that no office of the Canadian Mental Health Association is located here. And, in several other references to the service area in the materials provided, Northumberland is frequently not even mentioned. Perhaps this explains why Northumberland Hills Hospital has been quietly working on a partnership with the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences based in Whitby. Starting in June 2008, when staff from there reviewed our own mental health services provided by the hospital, its work resulted in approval by the Central East LHIN in April 2010 of a “voluntary integration” agreement between the two that both say has improved access and service levels for people needing treatment.
It may make perfect sense for our corner of Northumberland County to partner with Ontario Shores Centre based in Whitby rather than using services from the Canadian Mental Health Association in Peterborough, who are seemingly more connected to their northern partners than us down her, since they keep forgetting to state that our county is even included in their model. It’s hard not to wonder how deep their commitment to the people of Northumberland really is. But to know for sure, we would have to know what range of services are provided by each entity. Are they duplicating each other? If the answer is yes, than perhaps the LHIN should just take Northumberland out of the CMHA’s geographical mandate. If it’s no, then perhaps the LHIN should take a look at why the CMHA only appears to pay lip service to their mandate regarding Northumberland, where they offer not services but just a toll-free phone number. Since the LHINs were created to eliminate duplication and co-ordinate health care services, this would be a fine place to start.