Psychologists in British Columbia say the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the need for more mental health coverage in Medical Services Plans.
“Depression, anxiety, and people contemplating suicide are at an all-time high,” says B.C. Psychological Association advocacy director Dr. Lesley Lutes.
The association launched a petition this March, calling the provincial government to include psychologists in the list of eligible providers available through MSP billing.
“Psychologists can then provide the much-needed mental health prevention, early intervention, and care to our residents,” says Lutes.
So far, the petition has been signed by close to 1,400 people.
Some services are currently covered with the province’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, created in 2017, but the intake process can take months. They are mainly accessible through a hospital or mental health clinic.
These programs fail to meet the demand of British Columbians the B.C. Psychological Association says, especially for those who cannot afford to pay for counselling out of pocket.
In 2019, the province spent $1.2-billion on pharmacological interventions including prescribed medicine for the management of chronic health and mental health conditions.
The association says B.C.’s overall health-care costs would drop if patients’ are provided counselling by the public health system. There would be fewer mental health-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
“By providing physicians with this additional specialty referral it will decrease the overburdened family doctors and psychiatrists,” concludes Lutes.
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