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Fall budget promises greater supports for cancer patients

HALIFAX – The province is bringing much-needed relief for cancer patients struggling to pay for take-home medications in its fall budget tabled before legislature Tuesday, its first since winning re-election.

Minister of Finance Karen Casey said that an extra $846,000 will be invested in a new take-home therapy program to help pay for high insurance deductibles and co-payments that can cost cancer patients thousands of dollars per year.
The $846,000 investment will raise the government’s investment in cancer care to $2 million per year over the next three years. The province’s program to help low-income people with no coverage will help people whose pre-tax family income is under $24,000 a year, up from $15,700.
“We will work with Cancer Care Nova Scotia to fully develop the program to ensure no-one pays more than four per cent of their net income for cancer medications taken at home,” said Casey in her address before legislature. “At the same time, we will work with our colleagues in the other Atlantic provinces on a longer-term solution.”
The opposition Progressive Conservatives welcomed the support for cancer patients as a step in the right direction, a rare break in their criticism of the ruling Liberals’ budget.
“It’s a start, we’ve been calling for it for some time,” said PC leader Jamie Baillie.
The government has also promised $192,000 for youth mental health support in Cape Breton, including the hiring of two extra guidance counsellors and one social worker for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. This funding comes in the wake of Dr. Stan Kutcher’s report.
The Cape Breton investment forms part of a $1.8 million province-wide investment this year to expand youth mental health services and outreach programs.
“During the last campaign, Nova Scotians spoke clearly that mental health was a priority for them. We will hire more clinicians, put more support in underserviced areas and cut wait times for mental healthcare,” said Casey.
However, this did not go far enough for the PCs, who have consistently called for more resources and supports in tackling mental illness.
PC leader Jamie Baillie pointed to Pictou County as an example, saying the government closed down the mental health unit at the Aberdeen Hospital and the 2017-18 budget confirmed that it will not be replaced.
“What’s been put in its place to provide mental health services to people that need it? Nothing. That is a travesty,” said Baillie.
The fall budget comes five months after the government tabled a previous budget in April, but it was not approved before the May 30 provincial election.
All told, this year’s budget includes $19 million more in funding for healthcare, supporting Nova Scotia’s aging population, education and economic development, including help for young people.
Education funding includes $4.5 million for free pre-primary programming across 50 classes at 43 sites. Two extra sites will open in October.

(Fram Dinshaw, SaltWire Network)

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