Statements & Speeches

Virtual Mental Health Care (Question Period)

October 2, 2020

Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Honourable senators, my question for the government leader is a follow-up to questions I asked in June that did not receive an answer before prorogation. It’s not on testing; I can see you getting ready.

On May 3, the Prime Minister announced $240 million to develop, expand and launch virtual care and mental health tools. On June 3, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology heard from witnesses representing three leading mental health organizations: the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the Strongest Families Institute and the Canadian Psychiatric Association. These witnesses said they had not been consulted by the government on the development of the virtual mental health tools and, therefore, did not know how to access or recommend them to patients.

Leader, could you tell us which mental health organizations, if any, were consulted prior to the government’s announcement on May 3?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. I tabled a number of answers in the chamber yesterday. I assume that of the 11 or so that remain unanswered, yours is still in that pile. I will make further inquiries, senator, and endeavour to find the answers.

Senator Seidman: Honourable senators, on August 6, the government’s last biweekly report on its emergency programs before prorogation gave a status update on the mental health care announcement saying that, “Work on virtual care is proceeding with ongoing discussions with [provinces and territories.]”

The implementation status was described as “shortly.”

Senator Gold, have discussions with the provinces and territories concluded since this report was released, and if not, when exactly are they expected to conclude? Has any of the money under this program begun to flow to mental health providers? If so, do you know how much has been allocated so far and to which groups?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question regarding these specific issues for which I do not have the answers today. I will make a point of asking those specific questions when I can.