Open Letter to BC Greens on Mental Health

Dear Sonia, Adam, and team…

BC needs you to fight for a truly patient-centered mental health system. One that doesn’t simply expand the fragmented provider-focused disaster we have now.

I’m directing this toward you because you’re the only party in BC that takes healthcare and mental health seriously.

Whether it’s COVID-19, primary care, the opioid crisis, unaccountable bureaucracy, fiscal responsibility, or abuses of patient rights. You’ve sought out experts, taken the necessary time to really listen and understand, and put in the effort to stand up for people who need help. Even when it means taking positions that aren’t politically expedient.

Your political opponents are either fixated on soundbites and one-dimensional policies (sorry, mental health is more than inpatient addiction treatment) or inventing a press-release-driven fantasy world to distract from and obscure the Hunger Games reality of BC’s health system.

On mental health:

  • You’ve supported those who’ve spent years fighting for change in places like Victoria’s Psychiatric Emergency Services.
  • You’ve called for better regulation of counsellors, to ensure the public has the same protections and assurances working with these valued professionals as with doctors and psychologists.
  • You’ve also recently called for greater regulation of the many privately-run mental health and addiction treatment facilities, which charge desperate individuals and families tens of thousands of dollars for frequently ineffective treatment with virtually no oversight and accountability.

You’ve also called for a pilot project where psychologist visits are paid for on the public dime, through MSP.

I’m glad you’re suggesting only a pilot project because while it will provide a bandaid in the short term, it won’t solve the problem.

While adding psychology to MSP might help, I worry it will become a naive “everyone has coverage for X sessions and then you’re done.” They’ll do what they can with the constraints they have available. That will help some patients. But if used wisely, psychologists could contribute so much more.

We keep giving more and more money to providers. They do what they can with what they’re given to work with. Delivering more interchangeable units of mental health will not solve the problem.

The way we continue to use primary care, psychiatrists, counsellors, and psychologists in this system is an incredible waste of their time and talents and provides limited benefit to patients at great cost. It’s a model focused on providers, not patients.

Let’s take some of your thinking on accountability and apply it here. We need to be smarter and use resources far more effectively. Provide care that’s focused on patient needs, and finding the best places for them to get it. This takes time, iteration, continuity, and learning rather than throwing random chunks of care at patients just because that’s what’s available.

We need professionals to focus on the big picture and ensure people don’t get lost like they are now. Psychologists are perfectly positioned to do that.

They have a broad knowledge of mental health, skills in therapy, diagnosis, and psychometry, and most understand the biological factors and can interface with doctors. They have the analytical tools to evaluate, plan, and collaborate. They’re perfectly positioned to take a leadership position in a more effective mental health system. To be a bridge between the different silos. To ensure we’re using all these different professionals far more effectively.

We could pay psychologists to deliver six sessions of therapy to whoever walks through their door.

That would be another provider-friendly and government-friendly solution. But it’s more of the same thinking that has failed patients so badly already.

We can do so much better. Psychologists could be the key to a patient-centered system. Let’s all be smart about this.

To learn more about how our current approach to mental health is failing us, what needs to change, and how to start, see:

Mental Health Pivot