A joint publication of CMHA Ontario, CAMH, OFCMHAP, and OPDI
Consumer/Survivor Initiatives (CSIs) play a critical, yet undervalued, role in Ontario’s mental health system. Studies have proven that CSIs support people in recovery and reduce their use of hospital, crisis, and other expensive services. CSIs represent a way to both ease and enable people’s transition from formal mental health services back into the community.
While successive governments have recognized the need for a client-centred health care system and have acknowledged the innovative role that CSIs play in providing services, CSIs have not received any substantial new investments since they were first funded more than 15 years ago. Many CSIs have lost their funding altogether, while others have lost their organizational autonomy.
Consumer/Survivor Initiatives are run for and by people with mental health problems and/or those who have received mental health services. CSIs embody the principles of inclusiveness and recovery that underlie the current government’s transformation agenda for the Ontario health care system. CSIs contribute to desired outcomes by supporting people in their recovery so that they have less need for formal mental health services. But without appropriate levels of funding, recognition, and respect for CSIs, the health care system is at risk of losing a valuable partner.
The current government has an immediate opportunity to act on more than 20 years of recommendations, supported by evidence-based research. They have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership by committing to make Ontario a leader in consumer/survivor empowerment, by allocating a significant percentage of mental health funding to CSIs, and by mandating the inclusion of consumer/survivors in the planning, running, and evaluation of all mental health services through government policy and accountability measures.
Consumer/Survivor Initiatives bring a valued and distinctive mix of peer support, alternative businesses, and other empowerment models to the health care system in Ontario. CSIs require acknowledgement for their valued role and increased funding to continue to fulfill this role.
Our purpose in preparing this paper is to show that Consumer/Survivor Initiatives are active in communities across Ontario, to illustrate how evidence-based research has proven their value and effectiveness, to demonstrate that CSIs face significant challenges related to insufficient recognition and inadequate funding, and to make recommendations that will address these challenges and will ensure a continuing role for CSIs within a transformed health care system in Ontario.
This publication has been written and produced through the joint efforts of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario; Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Ontario Federation of Community Mental Health and Addiction Programs; and the Ontario Peer Development Initiative.