This election, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is calling on federal parties to commit to sustainable funding of mental health and addiction services and programs for all Canadians. Based on a Nanos poll commissioned by CMHA, 90% of Canadians support a federally funded 10-year Mental Health Transition and Innovation Fund that would improve access to timely, high quality mental health and addiction programs and services in all provinces and territories. Bringing forward recommendations first made in a 2007 Senate report, which were echoed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in its 2012 mental health strategy, CMHA would like to see a dedicated Mental Health Transition and Innovation Fund set up that could help provinces increase mental health spending to 9% of their health care budget and social care spending by 2% above current levels.
The fund would be used to better plan for and integrate mental health care in primary health care settings; establish acceptable wait times for community mental health services; or set standards for accessing evidence-informed services and supports that we know help people maintain and improve their mental health and recover from mental illness or addictions.
Canada could achieve the 9% target by investing $4.29 billion over 10 years. That amounts to a $429-million increase each year for 10 years, which is the equivalent of $12 per Canadian each year.
This works out to about the cost of four lattes or six Tim Hortons coffees per year.
This would allow provinces and territories to make much-needed investments in their mental health and addiction systems, improve access, and foster innovation.
All across the country, there are examples of effective programs that do work – that promote mental health, prevent mental illness, and provide mental health and addiction services. Yet, in spite of this, we still have long wait times for people to get the care they urgently need.
“The federal government has already invested in a Mental Health Strategy for Canada and provinces and territories have plans to address mental health and addiction care challenges; but we just can’t seem to get enough investment in mental health and addiction care to make a lasting difference for the people who need help,” says Steve Lurie, Executive Director, CMHA Toronto. “There are over 10000 people on the wait list for supportive housing in Toronto, for example, and wait times can be up to five years. More funding would allow us to reduce homelessness in a major way.”
“It’s time for the federal government to create a Mental Health Transition and Innovation Fund,” says Dave Nelson, Executive Director, CMHA Saskatchewan. “Saskatchewan has been unable to make major investments in their new mental health plan and funding from the federal government would kick start implementation.”
The costs of doing nothing
Evidence shows what we are currently doing does not adequately meet needs, is not as effective as it could be, costs us more money now in institutional care than it should and will cost us more money in the future.
The costs of doing nothing are significant in both personal and economic terms. For example:
- The economic cost of mental health problems or illnesses to Canada is at least $50 billion a year. It also costs business more than $6 billion in lost productivity.
- Unemployment rates for people living with mental illness are as high as 90%.
- In any given week there are more than 500,000 Canadians who have jobs but are unable to work due to mental health problems.
- People living with mental health problems and not receiving help can become frequent users of the health system, social services, social housing and, in some cases, the criminal justice system.
- According to a 2012 Statistics Canada health survey, one in six Canadians aged 15 or older reported having had a need for mental health care.
A Mental Health Transition and Innovation Fund will ensure that all Canadians will enjoy a guaranteed right to a range of evidence-based mental health services that are universal, comprehensive, accessible, portable and publicly administered, just like other medically-necessary services.
Visit the CMHA website for resources and more information on the #GETLOUD for increased mental health funding campaign.