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March 29, 2016 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "Trudeau’s Liberals pledge billions in federal budget for ‘transformative’ change," published March 22, 2016

steve-lurie-executive-director-of-the-canadian-mental-health-association-s-toronto-branchWhile there is debate about the size of the deficit, the budget does propose to tackle social deficits which impact Canadians. The budget makes a commitment to improving access to mental health services through the new health accord with the provinces. This is critical as all provinces have developed mental health plans to improve access, but have been unable to make the required investments. For example, over 10,000 people are on the wait list for supportive housing in Toronto, and will face waits of up to six years depending on the type of housing support they need. Wait times for community based clinical programs which keep people out of hospital can be a year or longer.

The Health Accord needs to help provinces meet the Mental Health Commission target of spending 9% of the health care budget‎ on mental health. Canada currently spends 6-7%, far less than countries such as the UK that spend 10.8%, and which has recently invested £ 1 billion improving access to mental health care. Given the burden of mental illness on individuals and their families, it is important to ensure that the deficit in access to mental health services is addressed.

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Steve Lurie

Executive Director

March 22, 2016 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "No charges for police officer who shot Andrew Loku," published March 18, 2016

andrew-loku_jpg_size_xxlarge_letterboxWhile the SIU findings will not result in criminal charges, an inquest should be held to provide a public review of police actions. Given witness accounts and video tape it does not seem that ‎ methods, other than use of force, were used, despite police training and directives. An inquest would shine a light on what really happened and how these events can be prevented in the future.

Steve Lurie, Executive Director

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March 2, 2016 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "Should right-to-die law apply to mentally ill people?," published March 1, 2016

SteveAs is the case with most ethical issues, there is not necessarily a simple, easy answer. The Commons Committee report suggests that mental illness should not be treated differently from physical illness. According to the Mental Health Commission #308 Conversations (about suicide), every day 10 people die by suicide in Canada, and there are 100 attempts. We know that suicide is the second leading cause of death of young people and it is growing among seniors. So clearly our first priority should be to prevent suicide and promote recovery. This can be accomplished by improving access to psychiatrists and community mental health services, and will require funding increases to reduce wait times and access to care and peer support.

If Parliament follows the Quebec law, there will be cases before the courts challenging why mental illness is treated differently from physical illness. If Parliament follows the route recommended by the Commons Committee, we should remember that all provinces have mental health acts in place that would place an onus on physicians to determine whether the person is experiencing a mental illness, whether there are risks to the person’s safety and whether they are competent to make a request for assisted suicide. Regardless of the legislative outcome, our focus should be on ensuring access to mental health services and supports that support recovery and help us reduce suicide in Canada.

Steve

Steve Lurie, Executive Director, Adjunct Professor FISW, University of Toronto

Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto Branch

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December 15, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "Mr. Trudeau: Canada’s mentally ill need a new approach to care," published Dec 7, 2015

psychiatristHopefully Mr. Trudeau and his Health Minister will take the advice of Doctors Goldbloom and Gratzer and ensure that funding for mental health services is part of the new Health Accord the government hopes to negotiate with the provinces. Increasing the mental health share of health spending from 7% to 9% as recommended by the Mental Health Commission in 2012 would require an investment of $120 per Canadian each year for 10 years, about the cost of six cups of Tim Horton’s coffee. A great opportunity to “roll up the rim to win” better access to mental health services in the country!

Steve Lurie, Executive Director, Adjunct Professor FISW, University of Toronto

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November 25, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "Trudeau makes public his ministerial mandate letters — their marching orders for four years," published Nov 13, 2015

justin-trudeaujpg_jpg_size_xxlarge_letterboxIt is heartening to see that Mr. Trudeau has asked his Health Minister to improve access to high quality mental health services. While the Mental Health Commission developed a national strategy to do this and a number of provinces have developed mental health strategies to improve services, they have not been implemented due to lack of funding. Most of the previous Health Accord funding went to other areas, not mental health. For example, since 2004 Ontario has invested over $19 billion in other areas of health, and less than $500 million in mental health, even though the disease burden is 1.5 times that of cancer and 7 times that of infectious disease.

When the new health transfer agreement is worked out, the federal government could help provinces increase the mental health share of health spending from 7% to 9% as recommended by the Mental Health Commission in 2012. Given the proposed reductions in federal transfers provinces will be hard pressed to make necessary investments to improve access to mental health services and supportive housing. It is almost 10 years since Senator Michael Kirby recommended a mental health transition fund to help provinces improve their mental health systems. This has not been implemented. A 10 year

commitment to increase mental health funding each year by $12.00 per Canadian (less than the cost of six Tim Horton’s coffees) would make a huge difference. A recent Nanos poll indicated that over 90% of Canadians would support increased spending to improve access to mental health services. Perhaps that time has finally come.

Steve Lurie, Executive Director

Canadian Mental Health Association Toronto Branch

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November 18, 2015 Annual Report 2015

Annual Report

October 21, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "Ignorance drives the global stigma of mental illness," published Oct 20, 2015

G&MStigma and discrimination for people living with mental  illness is a problem here in Canada too. When Senator Michael Kirby travelled the country investigating mental health issues, he heard numerous instances of poor treatment from people living with mental illness and their families.  This led to the establishment of the Opening Minds program by the Mental Health Commission of Canada which has developed and evaluated promising practices to reduce stigma among health professionals. While there has been some progress in this area, funding for mental health services does not correspond to disease burden in our health care systems. Dr Heather Stuart has argued in her book on stigma that lack of funding is a structural example of stigma. CMHA has determined that Canada could reach the Mental Health Commission’s recommended level of funding for mental health services by investing $12.00 per Canadian, each year for ten years. For the price of six Tim Horton’s coffees, we could reduce stigma and improve mental health services at the same time!

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September 30, 2015 Family Outreach and Response Program

Family Outreach & Response Program (FOR) provides recovery oriented support to people who care about someone experiencing a mental health issue.

August 27, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "More federal cash for health care is not the solution," published August 27, 2015

SteveMental health is one area of health care funding that did not benefit from the increased health care transfers since 2004. Access to mental health care and community services is poor and has not improved since the release of the Mental Health Commission strategy in 2012, as provinces and territories have not been able to increase the share of health spending devoted to mental health to the 9% recommended by the Mental Health Commission. Canada lags behind other countries in this area. For example the UK spends 10.8% of its health spending on mental health compared to 7% in Canada. Some provinces have been cutting mental health spending, despite the need to improve access. On a per capita basis Canada could achieve the 9% target by investing an additional $121 per Canadian each year over a 10 year period. This would allow provinces and territories to make needed investments in their mental health systems, improve access and foster innovation. This works out to the cost of 6 cups of Tim Horton coffee per year per Canadian. Surely our mental health  is worth it.

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August 20, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star published Aug 20, 2015 regarding the article, "Justice System Punishes Mental Illness," published Aug 16, 2015

SteveThe recent report by the John Howard Society echoes the 2011 statement of the Ontario Chiefs of Police that the failure to invest in community mental health services forces police and other justice services to provide responses to mental health crises. In 2005 the Ontario government invested $50 million in mental health and justice services. There have been no major investments since then. As a result, safe beds are full, more than 1,000 people are waiting to access mental health and justice housing in ‎Toronto and there continue to be challenges accessing psychiatrists and other mental health services. Until the government makes a policy and funding commitment to increase the mental health share of health spending to 9 per cent (from the current 5 per cent) as recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the justice system will continue to act as a default mental health service with tragic results.

Steve Lurie, executive director and chair, Toronto Human Service and Justice Committee CMHA, Toronto