Making good on a 2016 election campaign, the Saskatchewan government is taking the first steps in ensuring seven per cent of total health care dollars goes towards mental health initiatives.
It is one of several new initiatives announced in a record $5.36 billion health budget.
Mental health spending is rising $11.4 million through additional federal and provincial dollars. The goal is to improve community-based mental health services.
Total money earmarked for mental health is $284 million, or 5.3 per cent of the health budget.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter confirmed before the budget individualized supports for autistic children under the age of six would be introduced.
First year funding for this program is $2.8 million, with families receiving $4,000 per child under six with autism. Funding is expected to increase in coming years.
An additional $600,000 will go towards providing universal coverage of HIV medication. Previously the province covered 91 per cent of HIV medications. Saskatchewan has the highest rate of HIV in Canada, with 2,091 cases reported between 1985 and 2016.
Saskatoon’s Westside Clinic and AIDS Saskatoon will both be receiving $50,000 for additional HIV supports.
The ministry will invest $523,000 to create a Universal Newborn Hearing Screening program to support the early detection of hearing loss.
The province is also doubling its Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) vision loss rehabilitation service and equipment funding to $500,000. This is the final year of this commitment.
In its first full fiscal year in existence, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will have an operating budget of $3.5 billion. This represents a $71.9 million increase over the last regional health authority budget.
The province touted an 86 per cent reduction in senior administration since the establishment of the SHA, saving $9 million annually in salaries.
A final investment of $26.6 million to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon highlights $99.2 million in capital project spending.
Electrical renewal projects for hospitals across Saskatchewan has a budget of $7.2 million.