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Investments lacking. More needs to be done for Canadians’ mental health.

CMHA reaction to announcement emerging from February 7, 2023, First Ministers Health Summit  

The Canadian Mental Health Association welcomes the Government of Canada’s commitment to improve access to quality, timely, and equitable mental health and substance use health services, though is concerned about the extent to which these investments will lead to deep and lasting mental health systems change.   

Everyone should have access to the free mental health and substance use health supports they need, wherever they are, whenever they need them. Unfortunately, most mental health services are covered only if they are delivered by physicians or in hospitals. CMHA, through the Act for Mental Health campaign, has continuously advocated for the creation of a permanent Canada Mental Health Transfer valued at 12% of provincial and territorial health spending ($5.3 billion per year), with 50% dedicated for community-based care. Yesterday’s announcement of $2.5 billion per year for the next ten year across multiple priorities, including integrated family health teams, is a far cry from the $5.3 billion needed to bring mental health on par with physical health.   

Yesterday’s announcement does not create the promised Canada Mental Health and Substance Use Health Transfer, nor does it commit to dedicate much-needed funding to programs and services delivered by community-based mental health and substance use health care organizations. Rather, funding for mental health and substance use health, including investment in community-based mental health and substance use health organizations, will be negotiated with each province and territory through bilateral agreements.  

What is clear is that we’re embarking on a new era of accountability and transparency in terms of how our health care dollars are spent and the outcomes we want to achieve. This means we have a window of opportunity to ensure mental health and substance use health are covered just like any other health care service. It’s imperative that we see community-based mental health and substance use health services delivered by community organizations on par with primary and hospital-based care, ensuring providers are adequately funded to deliver services to the most vulnerable in our communities.  

CMHA will work with federal, provincial and territorial leaders to push for dedicated funding for community-based mental health and substance use health supports as well as the integration of counseling, psychotherapy and other out-of-hospital mental health and substance use health services into public health insurance plans. Specifically, ensuring resources are allocated to community partners so they have the capacity to collect data against wait times, and other key indicators. CMHA will also work to ensure people with lived and living experience of mental illness and substance use health concerns and the community providers that support them are equal partners in the development of healthcare that is responsive to their needs. Their voice is critically needed to build accessible, equitable and person-centered systems.  

CMHA is committed to working with leaders across all levels of government to seize this window of opportunity. Never before have our communities been in such need of mental health and substance use health services. No one should have to go without the care they need to be well.