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Canada should heed call of provincial/territorial health ministers; Invest in mental health and addictions services for Canadians

October 17, 2016

Leaders in Ontario’s mental health and addictions sector are pleased that Provincial and Territorial Health Ministers agree, Canada’s renegotiated Health Accord must provide a significant increase in funding for mental health and addictions services.

We now urge the Federal Government to grant this request so that Ottawa can fulfill a Health Accord platform promise: to “make high-quality mental health services more available to Canadians who need them…”

As members of Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council, we support the ministers’ call to enhance services for young people who face challenges transitioning from youth to adult mental health care. However, we also call for targeted funding of two key program areas: structured psychotherapy and supportive housing.

For people living with mental illnesses or addictions, supportive housing is a fundamental necessity for recovery. It allows individuals to live a full life independently in the community. It helps those with a disability or chronic condition achieve better health outcomes and reduces the use of health and emergency services.

However, the demand for supportive housing is immense. In Ontario alone, at least 30,000 people are in need. The Council estimates it will take an investment of as much as $693 million annually to create the supportive housing system needed to help those waiting for service. And that’s just in Ontario.

The benefits of psychotherapy are undisputed. It is recognized as an effective intervention for treating anxiety and depression, which afflicts an estimated three million Canadians. A significant investment will reduce wait times and provide greater access to therapies which can be widely delivered through various methods by many different health care professionals. This would have a dramatic impact on the overall health and well-being of our society and economy. This week alone, 500,000 Canadians will not go to work because of a mental health problem while the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated to be $51 billion per year.

As the Federal Government enters in to the Health Accord discussion tomorrow it may be useful to consider that relative to other countries, Canada under invests in this part of the health care system. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Sweden spend more than nine percent of their health budget on mental health compared to Canada, which spends 7.2 percent (2007-08). In its 2012 National Mental Health Strategy, the Mental Health Commission of Canada recommended that health spending for mental health services increase to nine percent and that social spending be increased by two percent. Bringing our national investment up to this level would be the start needed to help ensure that high–quality mental health and addictions services are available to all Canadians who need them.

 

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