Last week, Public Eye broke the news that the provincial Liberals had quietly transfered responsibility for child and youth mental health from children and family development to health. Today, in a letter to the premier distributed to the media, New Democrat children and family development critic Adrian Dix and mental health critic Charlie Wyse asked Gordon Campbell to review and reverse the decision. The following is a copy of that letter.
June 27, 2005
Premier Gordon Campbell
Victoria British Columbia
We are writing with respect to your government’s recent decision to move Child and Youth Mental Health services from the Ministry of Children and Family Development to the Ministry of Health. On behalf of many affected groups and individuals, we are asking you to review and reverse this decision.
The decision is wrong on several levels.
Firstly, there was no consultation with the community in advance of this decision. To make such a significant change without consultation with those affected is unacceptable. Your apparent direction to remove critical programs out of the Ministry of Children and Family Development is being implemented without proper public input or debate.
Secondly, no one - not you, not the Minister of Children and Family Development, not the Minister of Health nor any public servant - has provided the public with rationale for this decision. This move passed the interests of children and youth with complex needs back and forth between Ministries without explanation. This represents an unacceptable level of secrecy and a significant lack of transparency that must be dealt with.
Thirdly, the decision goes against your personal commitment to end the reorganization and administrative tinkering in the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Constant "internal revolution" has created an atmosphere of uncertainty that makes it more difficult for the Ministry and its staff to do its job.
Fourthly, to continue to implement administrative reorganization and change without restoring any of the deep cuts to Children and Family Services continues to put children at risk.
Finally, moving Child and Youth Mental Health Services from the Ministry of Children and Families is a direct contradiction of recommendations 95, 96, 97 and 106 of the Gove Report. These are recommendations that you have publicly supported for years.
Judge Gove recommended that "Provincial responsibilities for all child welfare services, currently scattered through different ministries, should be brought together in a new Ministry of Children and Families." Your decision to again split jurisdiction is a direct repudiation of the Gove report.
Gove's recommendations were not designed in the abstract. They were a direct response to the investigation and review of the death of Matthew Vaudreuil. Gove, the government of the day, the Ombudsman and many others - including you Mr. Premier - concluded that the multi-ministry model contributed to Mathew’s death.
In making this change, you will undermine years of work by successive governments and Ministry staff to improve mental health services for children. In difficult circumstances, including your government’s arbitrary cutbacks, Ministry staff and partners have worked hard to develop plans, services and best practices to serve children and youth in this area. They deserve better than this poorly thought out and unnecessary administrative tinkering.
Returning to the pre-Gove model is surely not what your government promised prior to 2001.
You are in the midst of a massive restructuring of child and youth services in BC. The decision to move mental health services from MCFD to the Ministry of Health will simply cause further uncertainty and disruption without benefit and put children at further risk. We ask you to reverse this decision.
(original signed by)
MLA, Cariboo South
Hon. Stan Hagen, Minister of Children and Family Development
Hon. George Abbott, Minister of Health