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Steve Lurie’s letter to the Globe and Mail published Jan 2, 2017, “WHAT READERS THINK Jan. 2: Because it’s 2017 … Plus other letters to the editor”

January 3, 2017

Because it’s 2017: A health accord

If the provinces want to improve access to care and reduce pressures on hospitals, they need to in-vest in mental health. Now. Provinces that haven’t reached a deal with Ottawa, and that includes Ontario, should accept the federal offer on mental-health and home-care funding and continue to discuss the size of health transfers with the federal government.

The mental-health and home-care investments will increase capacity to provide services in people’s homes and the community while reducing pressure on hospital services, a major driver of increased health care costs.

Under the last accord, the provinces failed to make needed investments in mental-health services. For example, between 2004 and 2011, Ontario invested $16.45 per capita in mental health services, while putting $1,361 per capita into other areas of health care. Compare that to Australia, which invested $98.13 in mental-health services, New Zealand’s $198 and the U.K, which invested $62.22. Provinces aren’t meeting the 2012 health spending targets of 9 per cent recommended by the Mental Health Commission.

Ontario’s mental-health share of health spending is some 6 per cent, Saskatchewan’s is 5 per cent. Without more funds, wait lists and wait times will keep growing.

In Ontario, young people are waiting up to 18 months for mental-health assessments and services, in Toronto, 2,000 people are waiting up to a year to access community mental-health services. The wait list for supportive housing has over 12,000 names, with wait times of up to seven years.

Steve Lurie, executive director, CMHA Toronto

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