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August 18, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "Ontario justice system ‘punishes’ mental illness," published August 16, 2015

toThe 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, over 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%, as recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, (from the current 5%) 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

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June 23, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "Support a bold campaign to end homelessness," published June 21, 2015

homeless_jpg_size_xxlarge_letterboxThe Star is correct to endorse the 20,000 homes campaign. However 20,000 is the tip of the iceberg. In 2009 the Ontario provincial auditor identified a shortfall of 23,000 supportive housing units, and very few have been created since then. In 2011 a report for the Mental Health Commission identified 520,000 people in Canada living with mental illness who are homeless or precariously housed. There are currently more than 10,000 people on the waitlist for supportive housing in Toronto. We have developed a plan to house 26,000 people which would cost $349 million over six years and add less than 1% to the provincial health budget. Alternatively the government could commission a social impact bond for this purpose, a strategy that has been used in the US and UK to leverage private investment, with a deferred government payback. A recent call for proposals found significant investor interest. All we need is for government to step up.

Steve

Steve Lurie, Executive Director

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June 2, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "Medicare has a mental-illness gap. It’s time to close it ," published June 1, 2015

TYM3_250500CThe Globe’s editorial and series Open Minds shines a light on the gaps in mental health care and feasible, cost effective solutions. It is time to recognize there is no health without mental health and to invest in mental health services.

This will require more funding, which may prove difficult with the pending reductions in health transfer payments to provinces beginning in 2016/17. Now may be the time to implement the mental health transition fund recommended by Senators Keon and Kirby in their landmark report Out of the Shadows at Last. Federal funding assistance over 10 years would improve access to community mental health services, psychotherapy and supportive housing, and would lead to savings on high cost hospital care.

Steve

Steve Lurie, Executive Director

To read the article click Here

May 27, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "Opposition parties urge co-operation with provinces on mental-health services ," published May 24, 2015

web-nw-na-MH-therapy-reax-0It is heartening to see support from the opposition parties and the federal Minister of Health to improve access to psychotherapy. It will also take more funding which may prove difficult with the pending reductions in health transfer payments beginning in 2016/17. Now may be the time to implement the mental health transition fund recommended by Senators Keon and Kirby in their landmark report Out of the Shadows at Last. Federal funding assistance over 10 years would improve access to community mental health services and supportive housing and lead to savings on the high cost hospital care.

Steve Lurie, Executive Director

To read the article click Here

April 30, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article "Ontario health budget rises, but by much less than last year" published April 23, 2015

ontario-budget-healthcare.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterboxCommunity mental health and addictions providers welcome the $138 million to improve access to mental health and addictions services which will be phased in over the next three years.  Unfortunately access to supportive housing for people who are living with mental illness and addiction problems will not improve much. The increase of 1000 rent supplements, which will be phased in over three years across the province, will have limited impact in Toronto where the wait list has grown from 700 to over 10,000 in five years. In 2009 the Provincial Auditor identified a need for 23,000 addition supportive housing units, but very few have been developed. The provincial government has announced commitments to spend $11 billion to redevelop hospitals and made a commitment to develop 30,000 nursing home beds. Hopefully the next budget will see plans to do the same for people who need supportive housing. An investment of $349 million over the next six years would improve access, reduce waiting lists and reduce admissions to hospitals and visits to emergency rooms.

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

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April 29, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "Kathleen Wynne wastes chance to create a legacy: Hepburn, " published April 25, 2015

ontario-budget_jpg_size_xxlarge_letterboxPremier Wynne could create a legacy by ensuring her government fixes mental health care. The share of health spending spent on mental health has declined from 11.3% in 1979 (when the first report on the need to improve mental health services came out) to 5% now. The 2010 Select Committee report‎ said that the mental health system was in crisis and little has changed since then in terms of improving access to care. There are now 10,416 people living with mental illness on the wait list for supportive housing in Toronto – up from 700 five years ago. Premier Wynne should ensure two things are in the next budget – a policy commitment to increase the mental health share of spending to 9% as recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and invest $349 million over six years to create 26,000 supportive housing units and service packages across the province. Then she will have her legacy.

Steve Lurie, executive director, Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto Branch

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April 24, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "When Ontario’s Liberals say more, they really mean less ," published April 23, 2015

MDB912-CANADA-BUDGET+ONTARIThe increased funding for community health services announced in the Ontario budget is welcome news, and suggests that sectors like community mental health and addictions will be protected the from the spending cuts in the next two budgets. However the $138 million increase pales in comparison to the $11 billion announced for hospital construction, or to the last budget’s commitment to rebuild 30,000 nursing homes across the province. In 2009 the provincial auditor recommended developing 23,000 supportive housing units for people living with mental illness. This has not occurred and there are now over 10,000 people on the waitlist in Toronto alone. A modest investment of $349 million over six years would create the housing and support services called for. Hopefully we will see this in the next budget.

Steve Lurie, executive director, Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto Branch

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January 26, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Globe and Mail in response to the article, "The good, the bad and the ugly for the NDP," published Jan 21, 2015

SteveSome areas of health care have received very little investment, despite reform rhetoric (The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – Jan. 21). Mental health is one of these areas. For example, the mental-health share of health spending has declined to 5% in Ontario, down from 11.3% in 1979.

Increases in health transfers should focus on neglected areas of health care. Perhaps the time has come to reconsider former senator Michael Kirby’s ideas of a mentalhealth transition fund, which would enable provinces to improve accessibility to community mental-health services.

Steve Lurie, executive director, Canadian Mental Health Association, Toronto Branch

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January 12, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "Mayor John Tory calls city’s lack of mental health supports a scandal," published January 9, 2015

john_tory_JPG_size_xxlarge_letterboxMayor Tory has it right. Despite lots of reports and pledges of action, the mental health share of health spending is less than half of what it was in 1979. While we have developed 4711 supportive housing units over the last 35 years, we need at least 10,000 more. There are now over 8900 people on the supportive housing wait list. Last year 5000 people applied, but we were only able to house 349. So the wait list will continue to grow without action. An investment of $30 million a year in rent supplements and housing allowances would allow us to add housing and tosupport 4578 homeless people living with mental illness in their own housing. In December  the provincial government met with  municipal housing managers, mental health service users, providers and LHINS and agreed to work together on actions to reduce homelessness. With the Mayor’s support on this and the Premier’s agreement, something could actually be done!

Steve Lurie, Executive Director CMHA Toronto Branch

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January 12, 2015 Steve Lurie's letter to the Toronto Star in response to the article, "Election year offers chance to put Canada on a better path," published January 5, 2015

trudeau_jpg_size_xxlarge_letterboxAs Canada’s finances return to surplus, it will be important to hear from our political parties about their plans to invest in areas of health care that have not received a fair share of investment, such as mental health. Provinces invested very little of the health care transfers they received in mental health services, and waitlists for services and supportive housing have continued to grow. Access to care remains poor with only 1/3 of people who need services, able to get them. In 2012 the Mental Health Commission of Canada recommended that provinces increase the mental health share of health spending to 9%. The provincial average is 7%, but Ontario and Saskatchewan only spend 5%. What is needed is a federally funded mental health transition fund to help provinces improve access to community focused mental health services. We need government and political commitments to end the deficit in mental health care.

Steve Lurie, Executive Director CMHA Toronto Branch

To read the article Click Here