Monday, February 18, 2008

Our latest media release...

Rob Moir calls for action on NB 'Connecting the Dots' report

17 February 2008

Hampton, New Brunswick

The Fundy Royal NDP sees great promise in the recommendations made in "Connecting the Dots," a report by Child and Youth Advocate in New Brunswick, Bernard Richard. This report outlines strategies to help New Brunswick better assist both the families and the children who are considered to be at risk or dealing with complex needs.

"It is refreshing to see such a sensible plan put together in a non-partisan way," comments Rob Moir, NDP candidate for Fundy Royal, "I am very happy that Mr. Richard stresses the importance of community-based solutions."

"On CBC, I heard my friends, Donna and Greg Marquis, talk about the problems they have experienced finding services in our system for their mentally ill son, and I shake my head," says Moir. "It is unfair to so many families left alone to deal with such complex and costly problems. " Richard's report notes that some New Brunswick youth are sent to facilities in Maine at a price-tag in excess of $500,000 a year for behavioural health and educational services. While New Brunswick taxpayers pay for their care, the families of these youth are left to pay for any visits to the children.

The 48 recommendations of the report are broad and include: increasing political direction and accountability; the integration and improvement of services; the de-criminalization of certain conduct by youths with mental health disorders; providing tailor-made educational services and support for families and youths with complex needs; and closing the gap in services for youth aged 16 to 19.

The importance of this report was highlighted by the October 2007 death of a mentally ill New Brunswick teen, Ashley Smith, who died in a segregation cell of a federal prison in Kitchener, Ontario. The length of her journey in the criminal justice system was subsequently attributed in part to her mental health issues. "We see the horrors of mentally-ill people imprisoned in Bosnia, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan and we think it barbaric; yet here in Canada, we have the same problem," notes Dr. Moir. A 2003 Human Rights Watch report noted that, at the time, there were three times as many mentally ill people in United States' prisons as there were patients in their mental hospitals.

Marianna Stack, President of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saint John, NB, is also pleased with the publishing of this report, and states that her organization "has lobbied the Government of New Brunswick for over a decade to make changes, but as yet have not seen significant differences. We know prisons are not the answer."

"While I hope this report changes the way things happen in New Brunswick, I really think it should be acted upon in Ottawa. Ashley died in a federal prison in Ontario after being housed at a variety of institutions across the country. It is time for the Canadian government to show leadership and invest in fair treatment of our at-risk youth and those with mental health issues," concludes Moir.

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