The cost of mental health and substance abuse services in Canada
Mental health and substance abuse services and supports in Canada cost at least $14.3 billion in public expenditures, according to a recent report by the Institute of Health Economics. The report, carried out at the request of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, uses 2007/2008 as the reference year to measure the cost of mental health and related social services provided to people with mental illness.
The authors found that the largest areas of cost were pharmaceuticals ($2.8 billion), followed by hospitalization ($2.7 billion). In Canada, mental health represents approximately 7.2 percent of total government health expenditures; a percentage that is lower than other developed countries, such as the UK and Sweden, by several points. In Ontario, however, nonprofit mental health organization expenditures were significantly higher (almost $765 million) compared to other provinces. Alberta nonprofits had the second highest expenditures ($185 million).
The report revealed that provincial sources of funding were significantly higher to nonprofit mental health organizations ($847.9 million) compared to municipal ($18.3 million) and federal ($41 million) sources. The authors also found that the private sector spent $180-$300 million for short-term disability benefits and $1.35 billion for long-term disability payments related to mental illness.
Data was not available from all provinces, but relevant information was included. Only six provinces reported community mental health costs and provincial income support which amounted to almost $1.5 billion and $1.2 billion respectively.
The authors point out that major data gaps exist for provincial and federal justice and corrections departments that provide services related to mental illness. Due to the difficulty in obtaining such data, many professional categories in non-health sectors were excluded. The researchers also excluded large losses in productivity and quality of life related to mental illness and mental health promotion and preventive services.
See “The Cost of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in Canada,” Institute of Health Economics, June 2010, available at www.ihe.ca.