Mental health services for everyone

TheStar.com – opinion/letters – Re: $257M strategy for kids’ mental health unveiled, June 23
Published On Sun Jun 26 2011.   Steve Lurie

The Ontario government’s plan to improve mental health services for children and youth is a good strategic investment, as currently four out of five kids do not get the help they need and 70 per cent of adults with mental health problems begin to have difficulties before they reach adulthood. The focus on children and youth in the first three years of the government’s 10-year mental health strategy will make a difference. But action is also required now on mental health services for adults and seniors.

If one in three people got treatment for cancer, no government or health minister would be able to justify such poor performance. This is the situation for mental health care in Ontario and Canada. Countries like the U.K., New Zealand and Sweden spend at least 10 per cent of their health budgets on mental health, while Ontario spends 5.8 per cent. Wait times for community mental health services often exceed a year and there are 3,000 people on the wait list for supportive housing here in Toronto, up from 700 in 2009.

The government’s plan does commit to reducing wait times for mental health services and supports as a long-term goal. The next provincial budget should commit to increasing the mental health share of health spending and set targets to improve access to services for everyone.

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

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