Urgent mental health needs require more resources: Aylward

Proceeds generated by cannabis legalization should be specifically earmarked to support important public services like mental health, says Opposition Leader James Aylward.

“We know that there’s a crisis in mental health services in the province that has been complicated by chronic underfunding of services over many years. The legalization of cannabis provides an opportunity for us to direct new proceeds towards supports and resources for Islanders struggling with mental health challenges,” says Opposition Leader James Aylward.

The sale of cannabis in Canada will be legalized this July by the federal government and individual provinces will administer the rules for sale and distribution with provinces receiving 75 per cent of excise tax revenue generated. On Prince Edward Island, sale of legal cannabis will be delivered through government-owned retail stores and online ordering from a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Commission

For the current fiscal year Prince Edward Island has budgeted $45 million for mental health and addictions services, or about seven percent of the total health budget of $640 million. Leading national mental health advocates have recommended that at least nine to ten per cent of health budgets be dedicated to mental health services to keep up with other countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that dedicate even higher percentages of their health budgets to mental health.

Aylward suggests that proceeds from legalized cannabis sales be directed into a dedicated fund to assist community-based and peer support programming to strengthen existing gaps in mental health supports.

“Canada spends less on mental health services than most OECD countries and the profits from cannabis legalization could be used to help narrow that funding gap here on Prince Edward Island. Establishing a dedicated fund from legalized cannabis proceeds could support existing policy goals and create a funding source for community groups also providing valuable community-based mental health services. It’s long past time for us to roll up our sleeves and start thinking outside the box for innovative solutions,” said Aylward.