(Toronto, Nov. 5, 2020) – The following is a statement from Camille Quenneville, CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division, in reaction to today’s provincial budget:
“Exactly one week ago, on Oct. 29, the premier told reporters that the mental health of Ontarians is his government’s number one priority. But judging from today’s budget, that’s not the case. The budget did not include any new funding.
“The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health has been profound. Ontarians are experiencing greater rates of anxiety, stress and depression fueled by social isolation, loneliness and other effects of this pandemic.
“Ontarians are also using more substances and, tragically, rates of opioid-related deaths are skyrocketing. The province’s chief coroner estimates opioid-related deaths are up 40 per cent since the pandemic began.
“COVID-19 has exposed how decades of underfunding has left holes in the mental health and addictions system. People struggling with depression, anxiety or substance-use issues often don’t know where to turn for help. When they do find a pathway to care, they may find that supports aren’t available or face long wait times.
“In contrast, if people break their arm or have high blood pressure, they know where to go for help, and help is usually available. Ontarians should have the same access to mental health and addictions treatment as they do with physical health problems.
“The most significant thing the government can do at this time is to help correct the decades of systemic underfunding in our sector and abide by its campaign promise to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years in mental health and addictions. Our sector has asked that this money flow at $380 million annually.
“This is a substantial financial commitment, but that’s what’s required to help a starved system that’s not on the same footing as physical health.
“This government’s financial commitment to the health care system throughout this pandemic is yet another example of that. Of the $15.2 billion committed to health care broadly during the pandemic, about 1.42 per cent – or $217 million – has been allocated for mental health and addictions.
“If the mental health of Ontarians is this government’s number one priority, then the provincial spending needs to reflect that.”
About Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario is a not-for-profit, charitable organization. We work to improve the lives of all Ontarians through leadership, collaboration and continual pursuit of excellence in community-based mental health and addictions services. Our vision is a society that embraces and invests in the mental health of all people. We are a trusted advisor to government, contributing to health systems development through policy formulation and recommendations that promote positive mental health. Our 28 local CMHA branches, together with community-based mental health and addictions service providers across the province, serve approximately 500,000 Ontarians each year.
For more information, contact:
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
T: 416-977-5580, ext. 4141