New mental health policy agenda

With a new federal government in place and advocating a change from the status quo in many areas, now is a good time for advocates to review our country’s progress in mental health care. 

Canada’s provinces and territories are also meeting in hope of settling on a First Ministers’ Health Accord this year and many groups are assessing our systems to give input on where to find efficiencies and improve patient care. 

The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) is a group that represents Canadians with mental illness, their caregivers and families. This organization has recently released a policy document called Mental Health Now, which is a call to action for our federal government when it comes to mental health care in this country.

Not surprisingly, a key plank in this document is to improve mental health spending and the federal government’s contribution to it. Canada currently spends only 7.2 percent of our health budget to mental health - far below the 10 or 11 percent spent by countries like New Zealand and the UK. CAMIMH as well as Canada’s Mental Health Commission, say this should be raised to a minimum of nine percent. In addition, CAMIMH recommends the federal government contribute 25 percent of that total – about $777.5 million more than it currently gives.

This additional funding would improve access to mental health resources across the country and improve integration of services and programs. 

Mental health research is also a priority in CAMIMH’s policy document. It recommends the creation of a Mental Health Innovation Fund with $100 million over five years in increased funding for research. This would speed the adoption of new innovations in care and treatment and improve outcomes for Canadians.

Mental Health Now also advocates measuring the mental health system’s performance to learn how the system is accessed and where funding is needed. In order to do this, CAMIMH recommends the creation of pan-Canadian mental health indicators.

Another recommendation is to establish an expert advisory panel to complement the work of the Canadian Mental Health Commission. It would be national in scope and include various perspectives.
Finally, improving the social determinants of health will lead to improved mental health in Canada. The CAMIMH recommends establishing a targeted basic income and pairing it with an affordable housing strategy to not only reduce poverty and homelessness, but co-existing mental health and addiction issues.
I applaud the CAMIMH for their vision and hope our new government will take these recommendations to heart and follow up with action. Canada can and should be a leader in mental health care. 


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