Families, NDP call for funding to open mental health unit

Lucy Mauerhoff still feels anguish over how her adult son was treated when he sought help for mental illness at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Now, she’s hoping to call attention to a funding shortfall that has delayed the opening of a mental health unit in the city.

“Every time I came to visit him, I could hear him sobbing down the hallway. Every time I went in he said, ‘Mom, I’m going crazier in here,’” she said.

Mauerhoff explained her 33-year-old son, Sean, suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and an anxiety disorder, which intensified in July. Having no other option, Mauerhoff said Sean went to  the ER for help and was admitted to RUH for two days.

Sean was allegedly placed into what Mauerhoff described as a jail cell and was given medication to take.

The cell consisted of a bed secured to the floor, a toilet out in the open and a security guard outside who would kept the lights on in the room at all times. Mauerhoff said Sean was put in the room because he was a flight risk due to confusion caused by his illness.

“I left visiting my son in the cell, I would cry all the way to the car. It was heart wrenching to see him sobbing day and night,” Mauerhoff said. “Saying, ‘Mom get me out of here, get me out of here, get me out of here.’”

Mauerhoff was joined Monday by others whose family members have faced barriers when seeking treatment, along with members of Saskatchewan’s New Democratic Party to push for answers on a mental health unit at RUH.

The proposed seven-bed unit already received $1 million in funding from the Dubé family earlier this year and was supposed to open this fall.

At present, the opening of the unit has been delayed indefinitely.

NDP Health Critic Danielle Chartier said she’s heard numerous stories like Mauerhoff’s, and noted the delay on the unit comes down to funding for a few nurses.

Chartier said the mental health emergency unit would ensure proper care for people living with mental challenges, and would relieve some of the broader pressure emergency rooms face.