Liberal cuts mean end of night services at six mental health clinics

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VICTORIA — Cuts to night services at six mental health clinics are just another example of the Liberal government’s failure to protect mental health services in this province, say New Democrats.

“The B.C. Liberal government promised they would protect critical services, but instead, they are presiding over deep and damaging cuts to mental health services,” said New Democrat health critic Judy Darcy.

“In the past weeks, police and regional mayors have renewed their calls for improved mental health services in B.C. We are hearing, loud and clear, that investment in mental health services saves lives – yet this week’s uncaring cuts suggest that this government just isn’t listening.”

Beginning Sept. 1, six clinics operated by the Fraser Health Authority will eliminate their services to clients who are unable to make it to the clinics before 4:30 p.m., discontinuing weekly or twice-weekly night services that saw the clinics open until 8 p.m.

“This is a dramatic reduction in accessibility, and could have a devastating impact on clients who hold jobs or volunteer positions, or who attend school,” said Darcy. “We have heard the same message again and again: accessing mental health services in this province is hard. These cuts have just made it harder.”

People struggling with mental illness are paying the price for an unrealistic Liberal budget that cut funding to health authorities, said Darcy. The government has already cut its funding for successful programs like the Art Studios in East Vancouver – which has operated for 21 years – and the Access Community through English program, which serves immigrants and refugees with serious mental illnesses.

“Not only do these programs do vitally important work, they are also low-cost services that save the province money by keeping people out of critical care beds and the criminal justice system,” said Darcy.

“In my constituency, these cuts have meant the end of funding for the Lookout Society’s program for homeless people with serious mental illness. I was shocked to hear that the government would not prioritize a successful program doing such vital work for vulnerable people in the community. But this is happening across the province.”

New Democrats are calling on the Liberal government to join the majority of British Columbians who recognize that strong and accessible mental health services are an essential part of safe and healthy communities.