Multi-faceted approach needed to combat poverty

I write about the mental health connections with poverty quite often because they each affect each other a great deal.

I believe we will not effectively deal with mental illness and the stigma surrounding it until we properly deal with some of the socio-economic factors plaguing the mentally ill. Likewise, I don’t think poverty will be a thing of the past until psychiatric and addiction treatments are available and accessible to all who need them.

Recently, the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) strongly endorsed two initiatives aiming to target homelessness in our country. The first was a senate report titled “In from the Margins: A Call for Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness” which emphasizes a need to break the cycle of poverty in Canada through 72 recommendations.

Some of the recommendations include establishing a national goal to eradicate poverty and homelessness; increasing support to welfare recipients; and establishing a national housing strategy.

Secondly, the CPA wrote in support of bill C-304, which is a proposed bill to ensure affordable housing for all Canadians. If this bill passes into law, the government would have to establish a national housing strategy and really address the need for more affordable housing options in our country.

I am glad to see my professional association aligning with these two worthy goals and I agree both are positive steps along the important road to dealing with issues of poverty.

Clearly, affordable and supportive housing for the homeless are necessary. Still, we need to deal with the root causes of homelessness such as underlying health issues – often mental health and addiction.

Canada’s Mental Health Commission is undertaking a three year study to treat 100 of Vancouver’s chronically homeless individuals in a new care facility. In this facility, medical issues will be treated using on site health teams and making strong efforts to best treat people who often fall through the cracks in our existing system. Our traditional treatment models have consistently shown to be unworkable among transient people with few personal supports so there is hope this new approach may be more effective for treating those who want to get off the streets.

If this study proves successful, it could lead to similar projects in other parts of the province and may be yet another positive tool in the struggle to give effective, accessible treatment to mentally ill people living in poverty.

All of this is encouraging news. Still, BC continues to have the highest child poverty rate in Canada (now for the seventh year in a row). Although the rate has dropped for the past few years, it remains the highest in the country with just over 10 percent of BC children living in poverty. Children in poverty have less opportunity to break the cycle themselves as they grow up.

While other provinces have implemented poverty reduction strategies, BC has not. I believe we need to put something in place so our efforts can be coordinated and we can continue attempting more innovative programs to deal with poverty and all the issues surrounding it.

 

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