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Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili speaks during a campaign stop at Kinsmen Park, in Saskatoon, on Oct. 8, 2020.Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

The leaders of Saskatchewan’s two main parties promised help for seniors and for those struggling with mental health and addictions as they campaigned Thursday for the Oct 26 election.

NDP Leader Ryan Meili, who was joined in Saskatoon by a mother who lost her son to an overdose, promised $10-million to improve access to mental-health care and to fight the province’s opioid and crystal meth problem.

Marie Agioritis is an addictions advocate with Moms Stop the Harm. Her son Kelly died of a fentanyl overdose in 2015 and her older son is recovering from an opiate addiction.

“The system … is loaded with gaps. It is deeply underfunded and uses archaic, outdated models of care in the treatment for those suffering,” she said.

“Dead people don’t recover. What we’re doing now is not working and little has changed in the five years since my Kelly died, other than an escalated body count.”

Appearing near the Dube Centre for Mental Health, Meili said the average time for a person to be admitted to a mental-health bed from an emergency room is more than 18 hours.

The number of youth hospitalized for mental-health reasons has doubled in the last decade, he added, and Saskatchewan has the second highest rate in the country.

“People are slipping through the cracks and it has too often tragic results. Too many people in Saskatchewan are struggling and they’re not being heard,” he said.

Meili said the NDP would establish dedicated mental-health emergency rooms in Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.

He also promised a New Democrat government would Introduce a legislated suicide prevention strategy.

Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe spent part of Thursday in North Battleford, where he announced his party would give seniors a financial break if it is re-elected.

Moe promised to reduce the cost of ambulance calls for seniors to $135 from $275, and to increase a monthly benefit for those with low incomes by $90 a month over the next four years.

The current maximum amount under the Seniors Income Benefit is $270 a month.

Moe also said his government would hire an additional 300 continuing-care aides.

"We have always understood that our seniors should be respected and they should be supported, he said.

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