Community is place for mental health care – Opinion – Re: Health budget is elephant in room, Editorial Feb. 6
Published On Tue Feb 09 2010.   Steve Lurie

The challenge is to constrain health spending while investing in things that will reduce pressures on hospitals and meet people’s health needs.

Some 20 per cent of Ontarians will experience a diagnosable mental illness this year, yet only one in three – and one in six kids – has access to mental health care.

The Liberals have increased health spending by $11.5 billion. Yet only $200 million was invested in mental health care – not enough to show an impact at the system level, according to government research.

If you have a serious mental illness, it is likely you will spend 10 to 14 days in hospital at a cost of up to $12,000. The same amount would support someone in the community for a year and cut hospitalizations by more than 50 per cent.

Co-ordinating access isn’t the answer either, unless service capacity is expanded. We need more community mental health services and better access to treatment. We hope the government’s mental health strategy will set targets to improve access and funding. Another $80 million per year would add only 1.5 per cent to health spending. Every dollar invested in mental health reduces health care costs by $7 and social costs by $30.

We would not accept that 70 per cent of people with cancer or heart disease were unable to access care.

Steve Lurie, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto

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