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Robert Latimer’s lawyer asks court to overturn travel restrictions

VANCOUVER – For more than 20 years – on bail, in prison, on parole – Robert Latimer has followed every rule and condition imposed upon him, without transgression, his lawyer told a Federal Court judge on Wednesday.

Jason Gratl asked the court to overturn a parole board decision that bars Latimer from travelling outside Canada without express permission, saying it is an unreasonable limitation on the Saskatchewan farmer who was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his severely disabled daughter.

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  • Parole board denies travel request from Robert Latimer

  • Robert Latimer has parole condition lifted; two others remain

“Mr. Latimer really has done about as much as it is possible to do to demonstrate that he complies with all his conditions,” Gratl said. “The risk is essentially non-existent.”

Latimer, 60, killed 12-year-old Tracy in 1993 by piping exhaust into the cab of his truck on the family farm in Wilkie, Sask. She suffered from severe cerebral palsy and Latimer has always maintained he wanted to end her chronic, excruciating pain.

A 1994 conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, but he was convicted again in 1997. Latimer was sentenced to the mandatory life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years, despite a jury recommendation for less.

He was released on full parole, with conditions, in 2010. In July 2013, a parole board panel denied Latimer’s request to travel freely outside Canada without having to apply first for a limited-time passport.

Latimer, who did not attend the brief hearing in Vancouver, applied to the Federal Court for a judicial review of that decision.

The circumstances in Latimer’s case were unique, Gratl told Judge Michael Manson.

“His daughter was born to him with cerebral palsy,” he said. “He cared for her deeply, on a practical level and emotionally, for 13 years.

“His daughter was in unbelievable agony as her skeleton degenerated over a period of years.”

Latimer is not an advocate – no Jack Kevorkian – Gratl told the judge, referring to the now-deceased American euthanasia activist.

Should the parole board lift the travel ban, Latimer will still check in monthly with his parole officer, Gratl said, and inform the parole officer of any travel plans. He would also check in over the telephone or electronically while he’s away.

Chris Bernier, the lawyer for the federal Crown, said Latimer can apply on a case-by-case basis for permission to travel. That restriction is absolutely reasonable, he said.

“This is a life sentence for murder that he’s still serving,” Bernier said.

The parole board recognized that Latimer poses no risk to reoffend but they took into account the severity and nature of his offence, he told the judge.

“He’s still able to travel,” Bernier said. “He would need to provide information on the place, purpose and duration of his travel. I don’t think that’s unduly onerous for him to provide that information.”

Last year, the board gave Latimer permission to attend a debate on assisted suicide and mercy killings in Britain, but United Kingdom Border Services denied him a visa.

He tried to apply to travel to South America to do some work with Habitat for Humanity, but that also fell through.

“The difficulty is that international travel restriction imposes a level of red tape and certain bureaucratic hurdles that make travel, practically, very difficult,” Gratl said outside court.

The judge reserved his decision. If successful, the parole decision will be sent back to the board to reconsider.

©2014The Canadian Press


Reports contradict PM’s view on aboriginal women victims

OTTAWA – Dozens of federal, provincial and community studies compiled by the Conservative government appear to contradict the prime minister’s contention that the problem of missing and murdered aboriginal women isn’t a “sociological phenomenon.”

But some in the aboriginal community don’t quibble with the government’s other main response to calls for a public inquiry – that there has been more than enough research.

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Officials point to a non-exhaustive list of 40 studies conducted on the issue between 1996 and 2013.

A closer look at the research shows that in nearly every case, the authors or participants highlight the “root” or systemic causes of violence against aboriginal women and their marginalization in society.

READ MORE: Premiers, native leaders call for forum on missing and murdered aboriginal women

The legacy of colonization, including the displacement and dispossession linked with residential schools and other policies, are cited frequently in the reports. The impact of poverty and lack of housing are also cited as root causes of violence against aboriginal women.

“There are root causes of violence in the aboriginal communities that include things like poverty and racism and this is why it’s incredibly important for us to work with organizations, aboriginal organizations, across the country…,” Rona Ambrose, then status of women minister, told a parliamentary hearing in 2011.

Harper has offered a different perspective.

“I think we should not view this as sociological phenomenon. We should view it as crime,” he said last month.

“It is crime, against innocent people, and it needs to be addressed as such.”

WATCH:Almost 1,200 aboriginal women and girls have been killed or gone missing in Canada over the past decades. Now, the country’s premiers say something needs to be done. Ross Lord explains.

The government’s related position has been that there have been enough studies – the focus needs to be on action.

“What we don’t need, is yet another study on top of the some 40 studies and reports that have already been done, that made specific recommendations which are being pursued, to delay ongoing action,” Justice Minister Peter MacKay said last week.

Some inside the aboriginal community agree there have been enough studies, but there are varying opinions on whether an inquiry would just go over the same ground.

One 2005 report prepared by three B.C. community groups, entitled “Researched to Death,” pointed to the “striking similarities” in research and recommendations done up to that point.

“The only outstanding element is action,” the authors wrote.

Dawn Harvard, president of the Ontario Native Women’s Association, agrees there has already been substantial research on the sociological causes of violence against aboriginal women.

READ MORE: No endorsement from police chiefs for aboriginal women inquiry

But she says a national inquiry wouldn’t be about the sociology, but rather about determining what specific policies and initiatives are needed to address specific community problems – in-depth research that smaller groups don’t have the resources to do.

“The sociological studies have identified that there is a problem, so your inquiry is going to get into the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of what is this problem all about,” said Harvard.

“And one would hope that therefore we would have a much more effective response when we come out of it.”

For Michelle Audette, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, an inquiry would be an accountability exercise in a non-partisan forum – akin to the Gomery commission on the sponsorship scandal or the current Charbonneau commission into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry.

WATCH: Walk for inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women

“Do we do another research (report)? No,” said Audette. “But this inquiry will bring us together and say, why didn’t we implement those (prior) recommendations? Why are we not putting in place legislation that will force our police forces to automatically exchange data?”

Kate Rexe, who worked on the Sisters in Spirit research and policy initiative on missing and murdered aboriginal women, takes a different perspective.

She says that while an inquiry would provide public recognition for the victims’ families, it won’t necessarily reach the required level of detail.

“If we’re looking at a 30-year time span over a number of different police services, in various communities that have had varying levels of response of police to the families and the communities, you’re not going to get the answers that you would hopefully need,” said Rexe.

“I don’t necessarily agree with just having more research for the sake of research.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Girl, 7, publishes her own comic book series – National

For many kids, comic books serve as a form of escape from the real world, a place to let their imaginations soar.

Seven-year-old Symana Symanski is no different. According to her mother Natalie, she “has loved super heroes since she could express herself.”

But Symana isn’t just escaping into comic books anymore — she’s released a comic of her own thanks to her mother’s influence, the support of strangers, and her own creativity.

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The Girl Who Rides Rainbows made its debut at Anime Expo in Los Angeles this year, the first part of  a planned comic book series written by Symanski.

According to a post on her mother’s Imgur page, the seeds for the comic series were started when Symana, at 5, stopped wanting to hear bedtime stories from her mom — so she could tell them herself.

With her daughter’s permission, Natalie began jotting down Symana’s story ideas on her cell phone to share with family and friends.

Slowly but surely, Symana’s stories started to gain a small following online.

Artists volunteered drawings of the characters in settings in her stories, and slowly the idea for The Girl Who Rides Rainbows came into being.

And Natalie says Symana had clear ideas on what she wanted right from the start.

“We’d have to rearrange the house, the character’s clothes, everything, until she goes, ‘that’s just the way I wanted it.’” Natalie told KGPE News in California.

The story follows a young girl who is transported to a magical kingdom by the pages of a magical book.

Symana got to show off her work on “Artists Row” at Anime Expo.

“The happiness I saw in her from watching complete strangers buy and return the next day ranting about it made my heart swell with so many emotions.” Natalie wrote of her daughter’s experience.

Now the family has started a crowd funding campaign to get the next installment of Symana’s series, called Tiny Tales Chess, published.

In the meantime, her mother writes that Symana’s transition to the publishing world has done worlds of good for her self-confidence, as the comic book fan was previously bullied for her love of super heroes.

So, as Stan Lee is fond of saying: until next time, true believers!

Teen who climbed World Trade Center sentenced to community service – National

NEW YORK – A thrill-seeking teenager who made a daring ascent of the 1 World Trade Center tower has wrapped up his case, with a judge praising him for taking responsibility.

Justin Casquejo was sentenced Wednesday to 23 days of service, which he already completed. He pleaded guilty in July to breaking a city law against scaling tall buildings without permission.

The stunt raised questions about safeguards at one of the nation’s most security-conscious sites.

WATCH: CBS correspondent Michelle Miller explains how the teen climbed the World Trade Center tower.

The 16-year-old from Weehawken, New Jersey, climbed to the top of the nation’s tallest building early on March 16. The 1,776-foot (541-meter)-tall 1 World Trade Center skyscraper isn’t yet open.

Court papers say Casquejo got through a small gap in a construction fence, then used a ladder, scaffolding, elevators and stairs. Authorities say he slipped past an inattentive security guard.

READ MORE: One World Trade Center named as tallest U.S. building

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  • 4 arrested in September parachute jump from 1 World Trade Center

  • Teen eludes security, climbs ladder to reach World Trade Center spire

©2014The Canadian Press

Are you the Canadiens’ next voice? Habs launch search for anthem singer and host – Montreal

MONTREAL — Get your game on Canada, the Montreal Canadiens are looking for a national anthem singer and an in-game host.

Last season, NHL fans were wowed by the singing power of Quebec chanteuse Ginette Reno and teen singing sensation Sara Diamond, but for the upcoming hockey season, the Habs have launched a talent search.

With glowing hearts, we’ll undoubtedly soon see hundreds of Montrealers rise to the challenge.

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  • Will the real Ginette Reno please step forward?

If you think you’ve got the stuff to follow in the footsteps of anthem powerhouse Roger Doucet, auditions kick off at the Bell Centre by the dawn’s early light on September 9 (for the role of singer), and on September 10 (for that of host).

Both the anthem singer and host must be available for all game nights on weekdays and weekends from September to June.

Not photogenic? No need to apply. The team’s website notes that the ideal in-game host should be attractive and camera-ready, as well as perfectly bilingual and outgoing.

Participants hoping to snag the singing role will pre-audition by performing in a capella parts of the Canadian and American national anthems. Crooners selected for the next round will have a second audition from the Bell Centre stands in the afternoon.

For those in need of a refresher, the Montreal Canadiens helpfully provided the lyrics to both anthems on the team’s website.

B.C. teachers gather at Canada Place for rally; hope to put pressure on government – BC

WATCH: Hours after the BCTF called for binding arbitration to settle the teachers’ dispute, hundreds of teachers rallied at Canada Place in Vancouver. Meantime, as Jill Bennett reports, CUPE support staff are caught in the middle as the strike drags on.

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UPDATE: As the first week of the strike that has kept B.C. kids out of school wraps up, hundreds of teachers bussed in from all over the Lower Mainland and joined their supporters at Canada Place this afternoon to take part in a rally to try to pressure the government. This rally comes after another round of offers, counteroffers and political maneuvering from both sides.

The event is being supported by the BCGEU and Nurses’ Union as well as members of CUPE, the support staff that reached a settlement back in June. Some of those CUPE workers were in the schools today before attending the rally. They were preparing the classrooms with the hope that school will be back in session soon.

WATCH: Thousands of teachers rallied in downtown Vancouver, hoping the government will agree to the BCTF’s binding arbitration proposal. Jeremy Hunka reports.

As schools around the province remain closed with no formal talks between teachers and government scheduled for today, education support workers caught in the middle of the strike are feeling the pinch.

While teachers are behind the picket lines, thousands of education assistants, caretakers, bus drivers and other support staff  are effectively out of their jobs.

Andrew Mitchell is a caretaker at Summit Middle School in Coquitlam.

He has been in the business for 17 years. Mitchell has been behind picket lines before, but it is the first time in his experience when the beginning of the school year has been delayed over a labour dispute.

“They are a lot of people affected by this that are not teachers,” he says.

Mitchell says he’s been hit hard financially and has lost 2.5 pay cheques since the strike started in June.

He has had to pick up random jobs during the summer and is now looking for something that would pay him minimum wage.

READ MORE: School support workers reach deal with B.C. government

Brandi Frocklage works as a bus driver in Fort St. John.

She, too, can’t go back to work because of the picket lines in her school district.

“We can’t vote on anything. We just have to sit back and hope for the best,” she says.

Frocklage say she did not expect the labour dispute to be settled by September because of the minimal negotiations that took place over the summer.

“We kind of got our hopes up when [Vince] Ready got in there, but nobody was really holding their breath.”

Frocklage believes she is lucky to have a secondary job at a golf course, which is where some of the teachers are also picking up some hours to make ends meet, “and they are quite stressed out too,” she adds.

Carrie Dexter is a single mom and an education assistant in Prince George.

Despite having considerable experience in the industry, she is now looking for a waiting job.

Her son is four-years-old and is not eligible for the $40 daycare subsidy the government has promised to pay back to the parents when the strike ends.

Dexter says she does not receive child support, and lost $2000 in wages in June, when the strike started.

“I have been job hunting every day…. I do not want to have to go pump gas, because I have an education to work with children with autism.”

While Dexter is lending her support to the teachers, she feels caught up in the strike, with no say and no beneficial outcome for her.

Dexter says some teachers she has spoken with in her home town are now looking to move to Alberta before they lose their houses.

Others are looking for secondary jobs.

WATCH: Teachers struggling to make ends meet, look for second jobs

City of Regina submits pension proposal; employee groups not consulted – Regina

REGINA – The City of Regina says it has a proposal to help keep its deficit-plagued civic pension plan afloat.

But the plan being submitted today to the superintendent of pensions is not a joint submission with the employee groups.

City manager Glen Davies says they couldn’t find common ground on how to resolve the pension issue, but they’re confident the proposal covering seven-thousand workers is sustainable and affordable for all involved.

The Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority announced earlier this year that unless changes are made to the pension, it would be cancelled.

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  • Regina still trying to fix city pension plan

  • In rare move, Regina’s civic pension plan could be cancelled

  • Regina city employees face $238 million pension shortfall

©2014The Canadian Press

B.C. premier wants BCTF to suspend strike and get back to bargaining table

WATCH: B.C. Premier Christy Clark is weighing in from the sidelines of social media on the government’s feud with striking teachers while classes in public schools are delayed for another day.

VANCOUVER – B.C. Premier Christy Clark is calling on the B.C. Teachers’ Federation to suspend or end the strike so students can get back into the classroom while negotiations between the two sides continue.

Clark spoke to the media on Wednesday afternoon, after weeks of silence on the current education dispute.

When asked if she had been “in hiding”, Clark said “I’ve been here, I’ve been working with Peter [Fassbender] and working with our team, working with cabinet.”

But BCTF president Jim Iker said teachers have no intention of suspending the strike right now.

“We’re not suspending any strike right now and we’re also locked out. We’re locked out right now,” said Iker, following Clark’s press conference.

WATCH BELOW: Premier Christy Clark calls for B.C. teachers to suspend their strike.

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Clark said the real issue that needs to be discussed is class composition, but that cannot be accomplished until the issue of wages is solved.

She said the BCTF  needs to come in “at a reasonable level on wages.”

“They are still demanding twice as much as other public sector workers have received,” said Clark. “About 150,000 workers in the public sector, dedicated men and women who serve British Columbians every day, have settled for raises that were fair, fair to them and fair to taxpayers.”

“It’s just not right, I don’t think, to demand a $5,000 signing bonus that no one else in the public sector has received. As long as the TF refuses to get into the affordability zone, and by that I mean a zone that’s similar to the what the other 150,000 public servants who serve British Columbians everyday have settled for, we cannot put all of our attention on the one issue that is most vital to the future of education in British Columbia.”

“And that is addressing the issues with respect to class composition.”

Iker said the $5,000 signing bonus is negotiable. “That’s for us to talk about at the table,” he said. “But we need a government willing to talk about what’s there.”

He added that they also want to get back to the bargaining table and want mediator Vince Ready to join them.

READ MORE (From June 2014): A look at what’s on the table between the BCTF and the BCPSEA

Clark agreed all this can only be settled at the bargaining table by negotiators.

“Ultimately what we all want is to make sure our kids get back in the classroom and get the education their parents have paid for and that they’re going to need to compete in the world,” said Clark, adding that teachers do deserve a raise, no question.

“We need to make sure that, if we can, that we can, the teachers can end their strike, suspend their strike, while we can get kids back into the classroom,” said Clark.

But she reiterated that the teachers’ union needs to come to the table with a “proposal that’s realistic.”

“For heaven’s sakes,” she said. “150,000 other public sector employees, who work just as hard, have settled for far less. They didn’t get a $5,000 signing bonus, they didn’t get unlimited massage, they didn’t get an extra day off every year.”

“It needs to be realistic, it needs to be in line with what we’ve done with other public sector unions.”

Iker clarified what the teachers are asking for at his press conference. He said teachers are looking for a “modest improvement” in massage benefits, from $500 to $700. He said there was never a proposal for unlimited massage, but there was one for $3,000 in massages for members in chronic pain. That benefit is now off the table however.

He also said there was never any proposal to give secondary teachers an extra day off a year. There was a proposal to give teachers an extra two days of preparation time, but that proposal has also been taken off the table.

“Collective bargaining is about movement,” said Iker. “Unfortunately the B.C. government hasn’t moved in any meaningful way in months.”

“The government is trying to prolong the shutdown with their $40 a day payment scheme,” he added.

WATCH BELOW: BCTF President Jim Iker responds to Premier Christy Clark’s comments on teachers’ dispute

Iker said in the long term, the two sides are only one year apart and only one per cent apart in wages. “B.C. teachers haven’t had a salary increase since 2011.”

Clark did not answer the question of how long the government would allow the strike to continue, but said the teachers chose to go on strike and they are the only ones who can choose to end it.

Currently, there are no new talks scheduled between the two sides, but Iker said teachers want to get back to the bargaining table as well but it is about both sides giving and taking. He said they could have reached a deal this past weekend if the government was willing to move.

“If they can build a roof on BC Place for half a billion dollars, they can invest in our children,” he said.

WATCH: Global News’ Legislative Bureau Chief Keith Baldrey with his latest analysis on today’s events.

Quebec Liberals ask public-sector unions to be ‘creative’ – Montreal

QUEBEC CITY – The Quebec Liberal Party announced on Wednesday they will start negotiating a new collective agreement with public-sector workers on Oct. 2, 2014.

Maurice Charlebois has been appointed as chief negotiator.

The collective agreement for the province’s 550,000 public-sector workers is set to expire on March 31, 2015 and negotiations with the unions is expected to be tense.

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The Liberals have already irked thousands of municipal workers and union leaders with Bill 3. City workers are scheduled to hold a demonstration on September 20 to protest the controversial plans to change pensions.

“We know what the financial situation is,” said President of the Treasury Board Martin Coiteux.

“We know that our room for manoeuvre, for increasing salaries and benefits is very limited at the present time, but if we work together, especially if we work on innovative ways of organizing work in the public sector, I think that we can have those margins that we don’t have today.”

Many are concerned that it may be a turbulent fall politically in the province.

Premier Philippe Couillard’s troops are headed into a pre-sessional caucus meeting in La Malbaie, where they are expected to talk strategy for the upcoming fall political season.

On the menu: the government’s difficulty in reaching an agreement with doctors.

Quebec physicians were granted a substantial pay hike, $540 million for this year alone. Now, the man who negotiated that increase for doctors is trying to convince them to spread it out over several years.

Health Minister Gaétan Barrette argued there is simply no money in the budget. Back in June, Barrette told reporters it was a matter of weeks before they reached a deal. It has now been three months.

Barrette said Wednesday that he is losing patience.

“I think there’s a lot at stake here in this negotiation and there has to be maximum patience in this process but it cannot be eternal patience,” he said.

“At this point, it’s up to them to make proposals that do take account of our financial situation in this province, which is not the case today.”

The Liberals will meet Thursday and Friday at Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie.

Campaign seeks to emphasize Mental Health Matters for university students

HALIFAX – A campaign to improve mental health services for university students has launched in Nova Scotia, which is the first of its kind in the country.

The Canadian Federation of Students – Nova Scotia (CFSNS) launched Mental Health Matters this week, a campaign meant to raise awareness about student mental health on campus and pressure universities, colleges and the province to invest more in student mental health.

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“Student mental health has been a growing concern for years and years and years. Students have become very concerned with, often, the lack of services of campus,” said Anna Dubinski, the chairperson for CFSNS.

Dubinski said students, particularly first years, face a plethora of issues including moving away from home, student debt, part-time jobs, personal relationships and staying on top of their academic studies.

She adds the main stressor is the fact tuition rates are increasing.

“Increasing tuition fees and student mental health aren’t different issues. They’re actually one and the same issue,” she said.

“That adds to anxiety and taking on that much student debt can stay with you for most of your life and go far past your graduation date.”

CFSNS and the King’s Students’ Union set up a table at University of King’s College Wednesday to pass our fliers and buttons to students.

President Michaela Sam said students are having trouble accessing support.

“We know our students are able to get in in emergent situations but sometimes it’s difficult for our students to receive ongoing care and ongoing appointments, which is important in a place like a university when so many of our students face anxiety and depression,” she said.

“We’re seeing a lot of students drop out because they aren’t able to cope with whatever is going on in their lives and we want to be able to support that.”

Julia McCluskey, who is in her second year of the social work program at Dalhousie University, said she can feel the stress of being a university student.

“Dalhousie has high tuition. Rent is high in Halifax. We’re expected to juggle everything financially. It often seems impossible,” she said.

“You have to pay the bills. You have to pay the rent. You have to pay tuition. You have to pay for books.”

“Sometimes it just feels like it’s impossible to get everything done, to pull everything together,” she said.

Fellow students agree, saying university students are facing a lot of demands nowadays.

“The stress can get to you,” said Logan Crozir, a first-year student at Dalhousie University. “I’m going to have to be able to juggle a job as well as my workload so that’ll be a challenge.”

“We all get stressed out. Everybody has things to deal with,” said Nico Miraftab, 23, a graduate student at Dalhousie University.

Kids Help Phone said it saw a 58 per cent increase in school-related counseling sessions from August to September 2013, which is the most recent data available.

The organization said almost 40 per cent of all school-related counseling sessions in August 2013 were related to transitions, such as starting a new school.

Dr. David Pilon, program leader for Specialty Mental Health Services at Capital Health, said 75 per cent of mental health illness start before the age of 25, meaning university students are particularly at risk.

“We know university students are under increasing stress, perhaps moving away from home for the first time, feeling the extra need to perform academically and given the significant costs of university education,” he said.

Pilon said he hears from his university colleagues that supply for mental health support cannot keep up with demand from students.

“They feel there’s a tremendous amount of students coming their way and they’re not always able to meet the needs that the students present with,” he said.

“I can’t help but think, given this is my life’s work, that if we had additional services to more quickly respond to all of those needs then that would be better for our community in general.”

Nicholas Hatt, the dean of students at the University of King’s College, said the school focuses on peer support, training faculty and staff and working with resident advisors to create healthy social environments in university residences.

But he acknowledges there is still much work his school and other universities have to do.

“Mental health is an ongoing concern. There is lots of work to do and it’s great to work with CFS and with the students on improving access to these services,” he said.

Dubinski also said CFSNS plans to start a postcard campaign in the fall to ask universities in the province to do a thorough review of student mental health services on campus.

“We need to know exactly what the situation is. We need to know exactly how much funding is being put into mental health services. We need to know if those services are effective,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Wellness said there are no plans to increase mental health funding at this time.