Wakeham demands better for people struggling with addictions

and mental health crises


For Immediate Release


(April 29, 2024, St. John’s, N.L): The PC Official Opposition focused its entire Question Period on Monday on the lack of adequate supports for people battling drug addiction, mental illness and urgent mental health crises. In the House of Assembly gallery on Monday were many people impacted by these crises, seeking answers and support.


Wakeham said the government is not doing enough to help, even though the rate of deaths from addictions is accelerating, with a 143% increase in fatal overdoses recorded since 2019, and the pace of deaths doubling from spring to fall last year.


But these statistics do not tell the whole story.  Wakeham said, “In two separate ATIPPs we have filed, there were no responsive records – zero – pertaining to any data related to overdoses other than those resulting in death.  Other jurisdictions collect that data, allowing them to target addictions supports and intervention before it is too late. How can this province address the problem when they don’t even know the scale of it?”


Wakeham said the crime rates in rural Newfoundland and Labrador are on the rise and many are failing to access the mental health and addictions supports they need. “The budget highlights seven communities that will host mobile crisis teams, with just one million dollars for their start-up. While the unit is up and running in Stephenville, will the remaining communities have crisis teams in place before the end of this year?” Wakeham asked.


“No urgency.  No priority.  Those in recovery oftentimes find themselves in difficult housing situations. There are very few options for them to seek shelter in a drug-free place. The sole option for many is the NL Housing waitlist,” said Wakeham.  He asked if the newly leased Comfort Inn be a place for these recovering users to seek shelter away from drugs.


Not only is the government failing people in crisis, but it is ignoring family members looking for options and wanting to be heard. “Letters and requests for meetings and information have gone unanswered. Families feel ignored and have not been invited to the All-Party Committee struck to address the growing crisis in this province. They are now here in the gallery to get answers. Premier, why is your government ignoring those seeking answers regarding addictions treatment options for their children?” Wakeham asked.


Wakeham pointed out the challenges are particularly troubling in Labrador. “The social issues in Labrador are growing, and the resources are simply not there to help those seeking help.  The budget allocates $15 million dollars to expand options for help regarding mental health and addictions.  How much of that will be spent in Labrador and how?” he asked.


“The government has had years to deal with this crisis, but is doing too little and listening too little as the crisis and its causes get worse. There are enough cautionary tales elsewhere to warn us how much worse things can get if the government continues to fail to get a grip on this crisis.”



Among the other issues raised in the House were these:

·       unlike the last All-Party Committee on Mental Health and Addictions struck by a PC government in 2015, this government’s committee has seen very little actual work, and many cancelled meetings;

·       there are examples of young people who sought mental health interventions to no avail, and have ended up being arrested – failed by the mental health system, and now in the hands of the justice system;

·       the number of files assigned to the RNC’s drug enforcement unit has doubled in the past two years, and the number of charges laid is up by a factor of seven, but the government is ignoring the root cause of the worsening crime statistics, and leaving the health crisis to the justice system;

·       in many districts where illicit drug use is continually on the rise, crime is increasing, seniors no longer feel safe, and people looking for wraparound supports are not getting the help they need.






Media Contact:

Ashley Jackson-Politi

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(W) (709) 685-3161

(C) (709) 325-5200

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