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9 Sept 2012: Soldiers' mental health programs get $11.4M boost

TN2IC

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from cbc.ca/news

Soldiers' mental health programs get $11.4M boost

The treatment of operational stress injuries such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the top health care priority for the Canadian Forces, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Wednesday as he announced $11.4 million in additional funding for mental health care professionals in the military.

MacKay said the funding will pay for at least 51 new positions that would include psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, social workers and addictions counsellors.

"Serving members who served our nation who are now ill or injured as a result of their experience, and require our assistance to heal, to recover, to transition and to improve their quality of life are a priority for me," MacKay said in a speech to announce the funding in Halifax Wednesday. "While our government has a good record of providing this care, there is more to be done."

MacKay said the Conservative government set a goal of doubling the number of mental health care professionals in the Canadian Forces from the 222 in place when it took office. Today, MacKay said, there are 378, for the highest ratio of mental health care professionals to soldiers in NATO.

"As we know, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the depression that follows are the most common operational stress injuries that we see in the Canadian Forces today. And with the intensity of the combat experienced in Kandahar [Afghanistan], the need today is very real. The effects are very real. The effects can be devastating."

"Those who are suffering from operational stress injury are my number one priority, for our health care programs now and for the foreseeable future," MacKay said.

MacKay said $1 million of the funds will be spent increasing the number of primary care doctors and $2.7 million will cover nine contracted physicians.

He said the funds, which will be permanently allocated starting this fiscal year, come on top of $38.6 million spent on the mental health needs of personnel.
 

JorgSlice

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Well, this is good news! Although... wasn't it when the budget was passed that CF MH Services were reduced in some fashion? I remember hearing something along those lines... but hey, as long as they're being funded. Mental Health care is essential.
 

Armymedic

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The largest issue is that the is not enough MH workers in the public health care system.

Hard to get milk from a bull.
 

McG

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Military has failed to meet mental-health staffing promises
Chris Cobb, OTTAWA CITIZEN
23 January 2014

OTTAWA — Canadian armed forces’ mental health facilities across the country are chronically short of skilled professionals and aren’t close to the staffing levels promised in 2012 by then defence minister Peter MacKay, the Citizen has learned.

In what was billed as an “important announcement” MacKay held a media event at Canadian Forces Base Halifax in the fall of 2012 amid early waves of criticism about the military’s handling of its increasing number of mentally injured Afghanistan veterans.

Among other initiatives, he vowed to provide funding “to enhance the Canadian Forces’ extensive mental health care system, particularly by targeting wait times through innovative recruitment campaigns and treatment approaches.

“Our government is committed to supporting our men and women in uniform,” he said.

He committed to hire:
  • Four or more psychiatrists;
  • Thirteen or more psychologists;
  • Ten or more mental health nurses;
  • Thirteen or more social workers; and
  • Eleven or more addictions counsellors.
But according to figures updated just last month, current mental health staffing levels are even short — by 62 — of the military’s own staffing target set for 2009.

The figures reveal that the system is short of four psychiatrists, seven psychologists, 23 social workers, 18 mental health nurses, six administrative support staff, three addictions specialists and one manager.

Total staffing among those mental professional groups and support staff stood at 388 in December.

The military’s target for 2009 was a complement of 450 mental health professionals.

If MacKay’s 2012 promise had been fulfilled, at least another 50 expert staff would have been added.

CFB Ottawa and CFB Petawawa are among bases with shortfalls in mental health staffing.

The Department of National Defence did not respond to a request for additional information on the staffing figures.

Three months after MacKay’s 2012 news conference, recently retired surgeon general Hans Jung — the military’s chief medical officer — blamed the lack of progress in reaching staffing targets on federal government directives.

“The issue has never been a lack of resources,” he told MPs. “Rather it was my inability to spend them because of the barriers beyond my control. Every fiscal year, for example, there would be departmental directions announcing a hiring freeze because of the uncertain financial situation. There would be internal reviews. Those things all cause additional months of delay in offering positions to civilians who may be interested.”

In an interview with the Citizen before Christmas, the military’s director of mental health, Scott McLeod, insisted that the system is working well for those who access it and echoed government ministers in calling for mentally injured troops seek the help they need.

“There are people out there struggling,” said McLeod. “We want them to come in so we can get a grip on those folks out there who need the help. We can’t help them if they don’t come in.”

But a recent spate of suicides — coupled with warnings from many experts of another surge of mental illness as those affected during the final Afghanistan deployments fight their demons — has brought criticism that the military’s strategy on mental health isn’t working.


“We need leadership at the chief of defence staff level and the ministerial level,” said Canadian Veterans Advocacy president Mike Blais after the suicide of a senior Air Force officer Stephane Beauchemin last week. “I don’t know what the answer is, but they have the resources and wherewithal to find the answer and implement mechanisms to stop this.

Recent military suicides:

  • Nov. 25, 2013: Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast
    Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast, at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba. The Afghan veteran died after being found “in distress” in a Lethbridge, Alta. jail where he was being held on assault charges.
  • Nov. 26, 2013: Master Cpl. William Elliott
    Decorated war veteran Elliott, 31, served with the Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry and did two tours of Afghanistan. The father of two was found dead at a home near CFB Shilo and, according to a friend, was worried he would be forced out of the military due to war injury.
  • Nov. 27, 2013: Warrant Officer Michael Robert McNeil
    McNeil was found dead at CFB Petawawa. His cousin, Warrant Officer Frank Mellish, was killed in Afghanistan seven years earlier and the soldier’s uncle told Global News that McNeil was suffering survivor’s guilt: “I think they should have had him on a suicide watch. . . . I think they dropped the ball on that.”
  • Dec. 3, 2013: Master Cpl. Sylvain Lelievre
    Lelievre was from the 3rd battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment, and was found dead at CFB Valcartier in Quebec. He joined the military in 1985 and served in Bosnia between 2001 and 2002 and again in 2004, and in Kandahar from 2010 to 2011.
  • Dec. 25, 2013: Retired Cpl. Leona MacEachern
    MacEachern, 51, died on Christmas Day in a head-on collision between her car and a transport truck west of Calgary that was initially reported as an accident. Her husband, Tom MacEachern, said the 20-year veteran took her own life in an “intentional final desperate act.”
  • Jan. 3, 2014: Cpl. Adam Eckhardt
    Eckhardt, a Trenton, Ont.-native, was based with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
  • Jan. 8, 2014: Cpl. Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez
    Sanhueza-Martinez, 28, was a veteran of the Afghan war, and based at CFB Kingston. He was found at his home.
  • Jan. 16, 2014: Lt.-Col. Stephane Beauchemin
    Beauchemin, a 22-year veteran, died last Thursday in Limoges. The officer and helicopter pilot had been deployed to Haiti 1997 and in 1999 to Bosnia. He also served as commanding officer of 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron located in Valcartier, Que., from July 2011 to October 2012.

Many close to the military mental health system believe that not all suicides are reported as such, partly because of family wishes and because some deaths are made to look like accidents to disguise the soldier’s true intent.
http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Military+failed+meet+mental+health+staffing+promises/9423250/story.html
 

Staff Weenie

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Funding is not so much of an issue at the moment - it's the staffing restrictions imposed upon the CAF that constitute one of the key roadblocks.  From my experience, coming from CF H Svcs Gp and now working at DCSM and at an IPSC, we are severely hampered by the fact that we still don't have the ability to hire indeterminate Public Service employees. We were stringing together 90 day casual positions in a desperate attempt to have any given position filled year-round.  We had the option of going to Temp Services, but they don't pay their employees overly well, so it doesn't easily attract the required skill sets that are willing to stay long term.

In the end, if the powers that be are serious about fixing the problems, they must give the Surg Gen, and DCSM the latitude to hire into all the vacant and funded public servant positions.
 

The Bread Guy

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Staff Weenie said:
Funding is not so much of an issue at the moment - it's the staffing restrictions imposed upon the CAF that constitute one of the key roadblocks ....
Some of the latest on how (according to unnamed sources) the HR process is slowing down hirings....
A bureaucratic, budgetary turf war that has stymied the hiring of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals at National Defence may be finally coming to an end in the wake of a suicide crisis that’s gripped the military.

Eighteen months after the Harper government put up $11.4 million toward a chronic staff shortage, the department says it’s just now in process of hiring up to 54 individuals to fill a need first identified a decade ago when the country’s war in Afghanistan began to heat up.

And the department’s lingering inability to fill the desperately needed positions has the taint of deficit-fighting politics as much as it relates to a nation-wide dearth of mental health workers, say a series of defence sources intimately familiar the file.

(....)

.... a series of defence sources told The Canadian Press some long-standing obstacles may have been removed. A ceiling on the total number of staff has been increased and the downloading of hiring decisions closer to the front line are among allowances being made as the military struggles with a sweeping number of suicides.

Both opposition parties say the fact soldiers have had to take their lives to prompt the government to start moving on hiring is “deeply shocking.”

Both New Democrat MP Jack Harris and Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray say it’s unconscionable, especially in light of stories they’ve heard from soldiers and their families who sometimes wait between up to two years for access services like counselling.

A report by the Canadian Forces ombudsman, in the fall of 2012, underscored that the department had never reached its goal of employing 447 mental health workers, a benchmark established in 2003.

As of last month, there were only 388 positions filled. The number has barely moved since Pierre Daigle’s report and has actually remained constant since about 2008.

The question is: Why?

Money has never been an issue.

Each of the positions has been fully funded as part of the baseline budget for the military’s medical branch since the early 2000′s. In fact, the Harper government’s injection of an additional $11.4 million — on top of a previous $98 million — left military officials in a quandary, according to defence sources.

Former Canadian Forces surgeon general, retired commodore Hans Jung, told a Parliamentary committee in December 2012 that “the issue has never been a lack of resources,” rather, it was his ability to spend allocated funds because of “hiring practices.”

The problem has been a stifling process that effectively creates a disincentive to hire, one that’s only grown worse since the 2010 federal budget instituted a hiring freeze, say the defence sources, who were not authorized to talk to the media.

Even though the positions were identified and money earmarked, every potential hire — both contract and public service — has been subject to an increasing level of scrutiny since that landmark deficit-slaying budget. Each application must be justified in writing, vetted and put before a committee of assistant deputy ministers at National Defence.

The process could sometimes take six months — or more.

That committee is chaired by the assistant deputy minister, human resources/civilian and more often than not the requests were either turned down — or had taken so long the candidate had accepted another job.

The question being asked internally for years has been: “Why do we have to rejustify each position?”

The answer, invariably, was that in order to increase staff in one area, staff would have to be cut elsewhere, said the sources.

“They were looking at every penny,” said one source.

The bottleneck was so bad, and so worrisome, that in late 2011 and early 2012 staff from the military’s medical branch made a special appearance before the closed-door bureaucratic committee, pleading to be allowed to hire ....
 

McG

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Meeting mental health recruiting targets still proves elusive for DND. 
Despite paying top dollar, some military mental health jobs hard to fill
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, April 6, 2015 3:26PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 6, 2015 4:10PM EDT

OTTAWA -- New documents show the Canadian military found recruiting new psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers an uphill battle because the government's top pay scale wasn't high enough in some parts of the country.

A briefing note, prepared for former defence minister Rob Nicholson at the height of last year's suicide crisis, shows National Defence scrambled to fill dozens of vacant mental health positions.

In 2002, just after the country entered the Afghan war, the military set a goal of having 454 uniformed, civilian and contract staff to treat soldiers with addictions, depression, post traumatic stress and other problems.

It has never met that quota, even today.

There were 434 professionals on the books as of February 2015 and defence officials say the shortfall reflects the normal number of vacancies expected in any organization.

The briefing note says the recruiting search was stymied in all clinical categories when potential candidates refused jobs because the government's top pay rate was not competitive in some markets.
http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/despite-paying-top-dollar-some-military-mental-health-jobs-hard-to-fill-1.2314142
 

catalyst

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As a social worker, I find that really hard to believe (for social workers - can't comment on the other part).


 

dapaterson

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ArmySailor said:
As a social worker, I find that really hard to believe (for social workers - can't comment on the other part).

Ever try to hire a social worker in Bagotville?  A psychiatrist in Gander or Goose Bay?  Any of the other remote locations where there are CAF bases?

It's not just the money; it's also the locations.  And given some of the specializations sought, it's not surprising that some government pay scales are unappealing.  The federal government simultaneously overpays its low level staff, and underpays some of its seniors.
 

catalyst

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I would love to go to Bagotville ;)

Its just interesting, given that unless you are in government (read: Ministry) or hospital placements, most social work jobs are generally low paying regardless of where one is.

Psychologists and Psychiatrists - definitely could see the issue.

 

dapaterson

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ArmySailor said:
I would love to go to Bagotville ;)

How's your French?


There's a third party contractor that also augments CAF and public service resources for health care; You could send your CV and see if they have anything (Bagotville or elsewhere).


Its just interesting, given that unless you are in government (read: Ministry) or hospital placements, most social work jobs are generally low paying regardless of where one is.

Psychologists and Psychiatrists - definitely could see the issue.
 

catalyst

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My first degree is in French ;)

I would like to - I'll be doing that once I finish my post-degree mental health certificate.

 
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