With the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the need for more mental health and addictions supports, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division’s fall 2020 pre-budget submission recommends the province prioritize critical infrastructure investments to sustain a high-functioning system that is responsive to the needs of Ontarians.
Read CMHA Ontario’s fall 2020 pre-budget submission, which outlines eight core areas of need for the mental health and addictions sector:
1. System-wide enhancements
Mental health and addiction sector leaders have been informing the province for months that a secondary wave of the COVID-19 pandemic will arrive in the form of a mental health and addictions emergency. The anticipated demand is putting pressure on a sector already stretched thin. The community mental health and addictions sector needs sustainable and long-term funding support to meet the upcoming challenges faced by Ontarians.
2. Wage enhancements for the community MH&A workforce
The community mental health and addictions sector needs a base budget increase to compensate staff appropriately. While local CMHA branches are providing an increasing array of programs and services, they have not received base funding increases in several years.
3. Overdose prevention and safe supply programs
Additional harm reduction initiatives are needed to keep Ontarians safe. CMHA Ontario supports the implementation of safer supply programs, in addition to pre-existing substance-use supports such as withdrawal management, residential treatment facilities and rapid access addiction medicine clinics across the province.
4. Additional supportive housing
Since 2017, CMHAs across Ontario have recommended new investments for an additional 30,000 supportive housing units over the next 10 years. As housing service providers with deep connections to our local communities, CMHA branches see this as a minimum requirement for Ontario.
5. Data and digital infrastructure to enable quality improvement
Local data is instrumental for knowing how we are performing within a region, but without robust provincial data, we cannot know how we’re performing as a provincewide system. Quality improvement initiatives cannot succeed without this necessary data infrastructure. The first step is to invest in a data strategy for the entire community-based mental health and addictions sector; something the Centre for Excellence in Mental Health and Addictions is well positioned to lead.
6. Primary care and mental health and addictions integration
Ontario is currently undergoing a health system transformation that presents an opportunity for providers from different sectors across the system to work together to promote more seamless, person-centred care. Primary and mental health and addictions care is not as co-ordinated as it could or should be. It is more important now than ever that the community-based mental health sector play a more central role – along with primary health care – in the planning and integration of care services.
7. Expansion of mobile crisis response teams
Evidence indicates mobile crisis response teams (MCRTs) are effective in supporting people who are experiencing mental health or addictions-related crisis situations. MCRTs are staffed by a uniformed police officer and mental health and addictions worker. These teams co-respond to a person in crisis to ensure timely and direct links with community services and resources, prevent and reduce harms to clients, decrease encounters with and entry into the justice system, and prevent unnecessary emergency department visits.
8. Access to core services within each Ontario Health Team region
A core set of provincewide mental health and addictions services should focus on providing seamless programs and support across the lifespan, from children and youth to adults and seniors. Another focus should also be placed on enhancing substance use and addictions treatment programs for Ontarians.