Islanders to benefit from a modernized mental health and addictions system

Dr. Heather Keizer and Verna Ryan, Health PEI's chiefs of mental health and addictions

Strengthening Mental Health Services -

A province-wide investment in mental health and addictions infrastructure will improve care for the one in ten Islanders who experience mental health and addictions challenges in their lifetime. 
As part of its 2019-20 capital budget released two weeks ago government announced an unprecedented $100 million investment over the next five years to develop mental health and addictions facilities that will modernize the system to deliver more accessible and better integrated care across the province.

“We understand the toll that mental health and addictions challenges can have on an individual and their family, and we are working to build a continuum of care that is better able to respond to the needs of all Islanders,” said Minister of Health and Wellness Robert Mitchell. “We are not simply replacing Hillsborough Hospital; we are investing far beyond that to ensure that we are truly addressing critical gaps in mental health and addictions programs, services and resources that Islanders and their loved ones have asked for and need to support their journey to recovery.”

Government is investing approximately $450,000 this fiscal year to carry out the infrastructure planning for new program sites and facilities. The more detailed infrastructure plan will include specific locations, proposed designs and budgets for each component. New infrastructure will be phased in over the next five years appreciating that some components, such as the mental health and addictions emergency department and hospital, will take longer to build. 

Health PEI plans to issue a tender in early December to engage consulting experts to develop the infrastructure plan. 

“People can and do recover; and recovery is a unique personal process. We must ensure that each person’s recovery is supported at every point of contact with our mental health and addictions system,” said Verna Ryan mental health social worker and Health PEI’s chief administrative officer of mental health addictions.

“These investments will make it easier for Islanders and families to access services through more robust and dedicated community-based program sites and acute mental health and addiction centres of excellence, as well as by leveraging technology to provide round-the-clock access to expert support,” Ryan said.

“All people living on Prince Edward Island will have the equal opportunity to achieve and maintain the best possible mental health and well-being throughout their lifetime,” said Dr. Heather Keizer, psychiatrist and Health PEI’s chief of mental health and addictions. “These historic and holistic investments will make it faster and easier for Islanders to access the care they need, when they need it so that they do not need to be admitted to hospital.”

The new capital investments  build upon a number of successful programs and services introduced in recent years, including the INSIGHT Program (adolescent mental health day treatment program), Strongest Families Program, mental health walk-in clinics, Student Well-Being Teams, and transition housing partnership with Canadian Mental Health Association – PEI to name a few. 

For more information about mental health and addictions services on Prince Edward Island, visit Mental Health and Addictions Services

Media contact:
Amanda Hamel


In 2016-17, there were approximately 12,000 referrals to community mental health and addictions. 
•    43 per cent were for addictions care
•    57 per cent were for mental health care

Over the past year, Health PEI worked with CannonDesign Ltd., one of the world’s leading planning and design firms, to consult with over one hundred key partners, including front line health care providers, government departments, community organizations, and, most importantly, patients and their families to determine the program needs and what infrastructure would be best suited to care for Islanders faced with mental health and addiction issues. 

The input gathered during consultations, a review of existing programs, services and sites, in conjunction with current and emerging best practices in mental health and addictions care from around the world, informed the priorities and capital investments announced. 

Five-Year Capital Investment Highlights: 
•    establish E-Mental Health Solutions (beginning in 2018-19): 
supporting real-time access to information, resources, tools and supports for Islanders and health care providers (e.g. rural tele-mental health services; online self-scheduling; virtual therapies and peer counseling)

•    Four (4) Community Access Centres/Hubs (operational in 2019-20):
providing robust collaborative community-based mental health and addiction services – treatments, rehabilitation and supports – to Islanders closer to home. To be located in Charlottetown, Summerside, West Prince and Kings County. 

•    New Structured Housing Unit and Adult Day Treatment Program Site (operational in 2020-21):
an 8-bed structured housing facility on the grounds of the current Hillsborough Hospital, providing care for patients with complex needs as they transition from hospital to the community and day treatment for patients who do not require hospitalization.  

•    New dedicated Mental Health & Addictions Emergency Department and Acute Stabilization Unit (operational in 2021-22): 
a new 12-bed dedicated department (8 emergency treatment spaces and a 4-bed stabilization unit) to be co-located at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, providing dedicated and timely access to trained mental health and addictions clinicians. 

•    New Mental Health Residential Services (operational in 2021-22 and 2022-23):
located in Charlottetown and Summerside, providing long-term housing with community mental health supports for individuals living with mental illness

•    New provincial Acute Mental Health and Addictions Hospital (operational in 2024-25):
to support all in-patient mental health care for children, adults, seniors, forensic cases, as well as in-patient addiction care for adults. 

Quick Facts About Recent Investments in Mental Health and Addictions: 
•    29 clients have completed the first 16-week cycle of the INSIGHT Program – PEI’s Youth Mental Health Day Treatment Program, with each receiving intensive therapy 5 days a week. The INSIGHT Program is PEI’s first mental health day treatment program for youth aged 13-18. It opened in Charlottetown in October 2016. 

•    Strongest Families Program has supported approximately 1,014 Island youth and families since October 2015, providing at home and online-based support, improving access for other mental health services.

•    More than 4,000 students have received help from the Student Well-Being Teams last school year (October 2017-June 2018). Introduced last fall, the Teams work in schools advising, consulting and providing direct service to children and youth who are struggling with mental, social and physical health issues. Teams include nurses and mental health therapists. This service is currently offered to the Westisle, Bluefield, Colonel Gray, Montague and Morell/Souris family of schools, with plans for province-wide expansion over the next years. 

•    Approximately 600 Islanders visited a mental health walk-in clinic in 2017. These clinics are available in several communities, including: Charlottetown, Summerside, Lennox Island, O’Leary and Westisle High School (this clinic is for students only). The clinics offer immediate mental health support to help with anxiety, as well as life events causing stress and other mental health issues.

•    More than 300 seniors have been referred to the Seniors Mental Health Resource Team since April 2016, which offers supports to seniors at home and in community and long term care settings. The service was expanded from Queens County to Prince and Kings Counties this year.   
•    The Opiate Replacement Program serves approximately 900 clients across 4 clinics – Montague, Mount Herbert, Summerside and Charlottetown (Queen Street Medical Clinic) – freeing up many beds at the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility. 

•    The expansion of the Transition Unit from 10 to 18 beds has significantly reduced in-patient admissions to the Provincial Addiction Treatment Facility, as more clients in early recovery are receiving extended support and are less likely to relapse and require re-admission. In 2017-18, the Transition Unit had 328 admissions.

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