VLTs To Support Broader Mental Health In NS
The Nova Scotia government’s decision to disband a non-profit government organisation that previously focused on the funding of gambling prevention and research, has attracted criticism from a community group that used to receive financial support from the group. The money previously allocated to Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia (GANS), has now been redistributed to the province’s general mental health support pool.
According to non-profit Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, which is a non-profit organisation that works towards reducing those community harms thought to be associated with problem gambling behaviour, said disbandment has created a lot of uncertainty over the future funding of its own work and efforts. The organisation believes that there is now, more than ever before, a need for community awareness work, said chair Bruce Dienes, who explained that people are right now at their most vulnerable ever.
The Mental Health Umbrella
Information published on Nova Scotia government’s website confirms that a portion of the funding enjoyed by GANS had been generated from a percentage of video lottery terminal (VLT) revenues. This amount was then matched annually by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. According to a statement on the website, VLT retailers contribute roughly $250k to mental health support services every year.
Dienes said he was informed that the decision to disband GANS had followed an amendment of certain regulations during October last year. He also said he was told by a government representative from the Department of Health and Wellness that the decision followed the emergence of “new information” pertaining to a realisation of there being shared co-morbidities associated with problem gambling and other mental health illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. This, the government spokesperson reportedly explained, meant that the funds should be shared more widely than allocating the bulk of it towards gambling.
Information Isn’t New
But the notion that such a realisation comes down to new information is completely ludicrous, said Dienes. Instead, he said he believes the real motivation behind the decision to have been that of an attempt to deal with the existing lack of funding for mental health in the province.
According to spokesperson Marla MacInnes, GANS will henceforth be treated as part of Nova Scotia’s bigger mental health and addictions budget, which reportedly totals to around CA$300 million annually.
MacInnes said that since problem gambling often occurs together with other mental health issues, it is beset to address the problem in conjunction with mental health and addiction help and support.