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Massive need to provide supportive housing units for vulnerable individuals with mental health/addictions issues

November 30, 2016

Toronto – Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario Division welcomes today’s report from the auditor general as it casts a spotlight on much needed enhancements required to help the tens of thousands of Ontarians living with a mental health or addictions issue.

While the report examined psychiatric hospitals and the child and youth mental health sector, CMHA Ontario is particularly interested about the auditor general’s findings about Ontario’s supportive housing landscape.

Supportive housing is among the most vital and cost-effective tools to help high-need individuals reach recovery from a mental illness or addictions issue. With the right housing and supports, people in recovery gain a renewed sense of dignity and hope and re-integrate into the community more successfully.

Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council, created by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, estimates that 30,000 new supportive housing units are needed over the next decade to meet provincial demand.

“But, sadly, the current stock of supportive housing is woefully inadequate,” said CMHA Ontario CEO Camille Quenneville. “As the auditor general indicated today, Ontario has had just four programs between 1964 and 2000 which has created only 12,300 supportive housing units.”

Creating new supportive housing does require significant investment over the next decade, starting with $224 million annually and increasing from there.

While substantive, the cost of not investing in supportive housing is far greater. Evidence shows that providing housing with supports as a first step in a person’s recovery from a mental illness yields significantly reduced costs to the system. The Mental Health Commission of Canada reports that nearly $22 is saved for every $10 spent on housing first. Savings are realized through fewer emergency room visits, less in-patient days, lower demand for clinical services, and less interaction with police and justice sectors.

“CMHA Ontario calls on the government to commit substantial and ongoing funding to create supportive housing options for people who are homeless and living with mental health and addiction issues,” said Quenneville. “Failure to adequately fund supportive housing will leave our most vulnerable Ontarians at risk and lead to a greater but completely avoidable financial burden on government.”

Fast facts:

  • The average provincial wait time to access supportive housing is more than 300 days.
  • In Toronto, there are 11,000 people with a mental health or addictions issue waiting for a supportive housing unit. The wait can be up to 6 years.
  • It costs $72 per day to house a person in community with supports, it costs $500 a day to keep a person in a psychiatric hospital, and up to $460 per day to keep them in jail.

About Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) works toward a single mission: to make mental health possible for all. The vision of CMHA Ontario is a society that believes mental health is the key to well-being. CMHA Ontario works closely with 30 local branches in communities across the province to ensure the quality delivery of services in the areas of mental health, addictions, dual diagnosis and concurrent disorders. Through policy formulation, analysis and implementation, agenda setting, research, evaluation and knowledge exchange, we work to improve the lives of people with mental health and addictions conditions and their families.

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