OTTAWA – Even as the federal government pressures provinces and territories to take up its offer of billions to improve mental health services for Canadians, an internal memo suggests it’s failing in its own responsibility to provide adequate care for mentally ill children in First Nations communities.
In extreme cases, the memo says, desperate parents are giving up their children to child welfare agencies as the only way to ensure their kids get treatment for mental illnesses.
The memo, prepared for Health Minister Jane Philpott early this year, was uncovered through an access-to-information request from New Democrat MP Charlie Angus.
Compared to provincially funded services, the memo says, some First Nations and Inuit Health Branch services are “less accessible and/or not funded to similar levels.”
Where mental health services are available, they are often provided by generalists — even though in geographically similar off-reserve locations, they would be provided by a professional with specialized training.
Further, the memo says funding for the First Nations and Inuit Home and Community Care program does not have a built-in escalator to keep pace with inflation, requiring annual internal reallocation of at least $20 million.