how many suicides are ok, mr. minister?

last week, the british columbia government (the one that pumps millions and millions of dollars into the 2-week olympics next year) made cuts “changes” to the budgets of about 90 (ninety!) health agencies in the vancouver coastal health region alone. the changes cuts will mean no harm to services, says minister kevin falcon.

it’s hard not to think of the fox that walks into the chicken coop, smiling sweetly, “oh don’t worry, i mean you no harm.”

the cuts, falcon says, are only administrative. apart from the fact that i have it on good authority that they are not just administrative, the question remains how an organization is supposed to run without administration, especially since just about all health service agencies i know are already running on razor-thin administration, and since the government keeps asking for more and more paper (=administrative) work.

let’s look at this.

burnaby is canada’s best run city. can you imagine it without a receptionist?

4refuel in langley won a best small business award in 2006. how do you think they’d do without a bookkeeper?

the cactus club is one of the best companies to work for. are they doing that without administrative assistants?

as you know, my concern is mostly with agencies that provide services in the mental health sector, a sector that is already seriously underfunded.

let’s look at one example – suicide prevention. saving lives is not such a bad idea, is it? how much does it cost?

* $5,000 will make possible one 60 hour hotline training class for 25 volunteers.
* $1,850 will make possible one 24 hour period of crisis hotline service for the region.
* $1,000 will cover the cost of suicide prevention and intervention to save 20 lives.
* $500 will train 20 youth, parents, or teachers on suicide prevention.
* $250 will sponsor training for one hotline volunteer, who can answer 450 calls a year.
* $100 will cover 1 week of CareRing calls to a vulnerable senior.
* $75 will make possible 1 hour of crisis hotline service for the region.

now think about it. someone had to gather this information. someone had to type it up. someone had to get it on the web. someone had to put the web site together, someone needs to maintain it. who do you think is doing this? guess what, it’s someone in an administrative function.

ask any struggling social service agency what their major funding problems are, and they will invariably have “core funding” on the very top of their list – the money needed to pay for the invisible but highly necessary costs, without which the services have absolutely no infrastructure to rest on. if you’re a crisis line and don’t have a bookkeeper taking care of the payables, who will send that cheque to the telephone company, without which there won’t be any crisis line?

so how many suicides would you like to prevent, mr. falcon? 20, or, say, 10% less because the lives of those other two people aren’t that important?


  1. The BC Liberals chose to cut services and programs in their first term during a time of surpluses. The gap between the have and have not continues to widen. They continue their cuts during a time when gov’t should be assisting people to survive this economic downturn.
    BC Liberals have chosen: Their priority is not the people of BC.

  2. These cuts are unacceptable. The agencies I work for have been hit, and so have services available to me as a consumer. Entire programs simply wiped out with vague words about how it’ll all be better with “restructuring” and “changes” – but the staff are gone, beds are cut, and fewer consumers are able to access the care – at all levels of care – that they need.

    Even if the suicide hotlines had adequate funding, if the hospitals and community services they refer people to are unable to provide help, what’s the point?

    VCH Mental Health and Addictions have been increasingly overwhelmed in recent years. To imagine there is anywhere at all to cut when there is actually a mental health crisis very visible on the city streets, and an invisible one behind it with service barriers to all but the most severely dysfunctional, is absurd. The statements from Kevin Falcon are not at all convincing and have been condemned by commenters on every news site and blog I’ve read them on. I echo them all.

    I’d like to to encourage more peer-led initiatives during this funding crisis. If they won’t help people who need it, we have to help each other now.
    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..Office Stigma =-.

  3. Great news. Politicians will now be cutting their administrative support. Fewer secretaries, party workers and so on. This is wonderful news.

    Unless it doesn’t happen. In which case we can conclude that they are either hypocrites, too stupid to know that admin is essential, or malicious ideologues (don’t see many other alternatives).

    When I was in the NGO sector this was always the problem. To be fair from private as well as government – to get the admin funded! Service provision you could usually get some (usually inadequate) funding for but getting it for admin was a nightmare. Apparently you were meant to help people who couldn’t contact you and you shouldn’t tell others about what you were doing (no funding for telephone costs, postage etc).

    If I sound angry and disgusted it is because I am.

    Then there is the expenditure on security – not even to mention politicians perks (oops I just did).

    “It will be a great day when schools are funded and the military has to hold a cake stall!”
    .-= Evan´s last blog ..Seven Questions About Strength and Weakness =-.

  4. Dearest Isabella,

    Don’t even get me started with this. I completely agree, these “budget adjustments” just make me want to scream and kick the current policies in the butt!

  5. @evan, i love this saying, “it will be a great day when schools are funded and the military has to hold a cake stall!”

    @sandra i totally agree with you re more peer-led initiatives. in all areas, actually, not just mental health. that’s why the CMHA’s participatory advisory committee’s event last tuesday was really great (the one i talked about here:

    @lorene, thanks for visiting here! unfortunately there is evidence everywhere that our current government is not very people friendly. hopefully that will change soon.
    .-= isabella mori (@moritherapy)´s last blog ..swans on a wordless wednesday =-.

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