By James Breckenridge. Given the current, and future, state of Fraser Mental Health and it’s funding it is vital that pains be taken to ensure that the reporting of the actions and behaviours of FMH reflect with great accuracy what the effects and consequences of those behaviours and actions will be.

This ‘full service’ reporting is necessary so that readers can achieve an understanding of what the effect, the consequences – positive and negative – of the announced changes, actions and behaviours will be in order to evaluate whether a change should, or should not, be made.

Case in point: “FHA receives new funding for Mental Health, Substance Abuse” is both right – and wrong. FHA received new funding for 1/2 of the cost of the new ACT teams.

It is imperative to be very accurate on the source of funding as FHA’s $2 million share will require cutting $2 million worth of mental health and substance abuse services and programs.

Speaking with participants in programs that were cut so the funds could be used to fund the ACT teams underscores that funding the ACT teams will have negative consequences for those currently receiving, in need of, mental health and substance abuse services.

The cutting or cancelling of existing mental health and substance abuse programs in order to use the funds from those programs and services to fund the ACT teams may well result in some of those depending on or in need of the cut/cancelled services becoming homeless.

Information is key to evaluating whether a change, such as the ACT teams, is beneficial or is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Furthermore, to be effective the ACT teams require funding for housing, services and programs that are not currently available. Is the funding for the required housing, services and programs part of the $4 million spending? If not where will the funding for the required housing, services and programs come from?

Where will the funding to cover the Health Authorities $2 million contribution this year, come from in future years? Because mental health and substance use services are, in the housing first model, a minimum two year commitment.

The consequence of Fraser Mental Health not receiving any increase in its budget in recent years is that FMH is teetering on the edge of disaster because no budget increases translate into service and program cuts to offset the unfunded year to year increased costs of providing services and programs.

The announced 2% per year funding for healthcare is well below the increases needed to cover increased costs and will therefore require program and service cuts to offset the increase service and program costs not covered by the 2% yearly increases over the next 5 years.

Reporting or analyzing announcements and/or service, program, action and behaviour changes requires care to ensure that readers have the information necessary to form an informed understanding of the consequences of changes as to whether a change is going to be effective and whether the positive consequences outweigh the negative consequences.

Because the state of mental health and substance abuse services and programs in the Fraser Health Region is such that changes, other than the most minor, will entail a varying degree of negative consequences that require knowing what the net [positive minus negative consequences] effect of a change will be in order to evaluate whether the change is worth making .

Caveat emptor.

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