Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette is welcoming the news that the provincial government is starting work to add more addiction treatment beds in Saskatchewan.

This week it was reported that the provincial government had put out a requests for proposals (RFP) to operate between 150 to 200 new treatment beds. Vermette, who serves as the opposition critic for mental health and addictions, said he is happy to hear that work is getting underway to make more beds available. He credited a number of people ranging from local leadership to families who have spoken out and worked to raise awareness about the problem of addiction for pushing the government to take action.

“It feels like the pressure that’s been put on government, is telling the government, ‘you have to take this crisis, going on in our province more serious,’ ” he said.

However, Vermette said he does have some concerns about how the government is going about adding the additional treatment beds. Specifically, Vermette said he was worried about the new beds being operated by private for profit groups.

“We’ve seen what they’ve done with long term care when they privatized it,” he said.

Where the new beds will be located specifically is currently an open question. In an email response to MBC Radio News a Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) spokesperson would only comment that the provincial health authority knows there is a need all over the province for more addictions treatment beds.

“The province has identified that there are needs in rural and urban centres, province-wide,” the response said.

When contacted by MBC and asked about the RFP process a spokesperson for the Northern Inter Tribal Health Authority (NITHA), which provides health care services to 33 First Nations in the north, said the health authority does not know where any of the new beds will be located.

“To leave the north out, not even mention the north in there is pretty sad,” said Vermette in response to the SHA’s statement.

Vermette said he will be keeping an eye on the roll out and putting pressure on the government to ensure that some of the new beds are in the north. Overall the Cumberland MLA explained in his experience the current provincial government has not done a good job when it comes to consulting people at the local level. Along with local leaders Vermette said families of people who are affected should be part of the process as well.

He added northern health authorities have been doing good work and said it was sad to hear that they are not currently part of the process.

“The province doesn’t even talk and consult with them when they make these announcements,” said Vermette.