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?

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