Next step is funding for mental health

TheStar.com – Opinion/Letters – Re: Mental health ‘crisis has arrived’ Column, Aug. 27
Published On Sun Aug 29 2010.   Steve Lurie, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto Branch

The report by the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions is the sixth report the Ontario government has received since 1979 proposing change to the mental health system. All reports have contained visionary rhetoric, but none have led to major change. It is heartening that the committee was able to agree that the mental health system is in crisis and needs fixing as outlined in its report released Thursday. It contains solid and implementable recommendations to fix the system and ensure Ontarians have access to the mental health and addictions services they need.

However, it will take political will and a long-term commitment on the part of the government to change things. It will also take money. While Ontario’s Liberal government increased health funding by $14.5 billion since coming to office, it only added $220 million to mental health spending during the same period even though mental health and addictions problems affect 20 per cent of the population.

The government will need to use some of the $1.95 billion it will be receiving in increased federal transfers between now and 2014 to support the reforms the select committee is suggesting. Today in Toronto there are 2,000 people on the wait list for supportive housing. Without creating additional service capacity for supportive housing, this will not change. Other jurisdictions have had to increase the mental health share of health spending to get change and improve services. Hopefully, when the government releases its 10-year strategy and responds to the committee’s report it will also commit to increasing funding for services.

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

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