Liberal budget signals positive future for mental health say psychiatrists
—Ottawa, ON, March 23, 2016—
While yesterday’s budget did not announce significant investments in mental health for 2016, Canadian psychiatrists are encouraged that access to mental health services was named as a priority for the First Minister’s health accord currently under negotiation with the provinces and territories.
“Many Canadians with mental illness can’t get timely access to the services they need and funding for mental health care is nowhere near the levels required to address that need. The federal government’s 2016 budget commitment is important and promises mental health will get the attention it deserves,” says Dr. K. Sonu Gaind, president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA).
The budget also committed to support the provinces and territories in their ongoing efforts to ensure public safety officers have the support and treatment they need when facing post-traumatic stress disorder.
In addition to future commitments, the CPA is pleased that the budget included money to help people whose social and financial circumstances have made them vulnerable to poor mental health.
“Health begins where we live, learn, work and play. Too many people don’t have the same opportunities to be as healthy as others,” explains Dr. Gaind. “Education, income, housing, the quality of our experiences as children and the physical environment that surrounds us have been shown to be equally important to, if not more important than, the individual lifestyle decisions we make. Psychiatrists know these as the social determinants of health and we confront them in our everyday work.”
The 2016 budget measures that address the social determinants of health include:
- Almost $1.5 billion in affordable housing including $90 million to support shelters for victims of violence and $111.8 million for the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). Housing First initiatives are part of the HPS, helping homeless Canadians secure stable housing while providing them with support for underlying issues such as mental health or addiction.
- Increased financial supports for veterans with service-related illness or injury.
- A substantial portion of the $8.4 billion over five years earmarked to improve the future of indigenous peoples targets housing, education, employment and training, water, safe shelter for victims of violence, childcare and early learning, water and waste management. $270 million out of the fund for indigenous peoples is allocated to the repair, building and renovation of First Nations health care centres.
- Targeted investments in single seniors most at risk of poverty by increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement by 10%, and returning eligibility for the Old Age Security benefit to 65 for all Canadians.
The $39 million over three years to the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to support the identification and introduction of innovations in the health care system is also a positive development. Canadian psychiatrists encourage the government to expand its efforts on health care innovation to create a dedicated mental health innovation fund to scale up and accelerate the spread of promising mental health care innovations.
Further budget measures that the CPA was pleased to see include:
- $1.4 million over two years to harmonize concussion management guidelines across Canada.
- $20 million over three years for the Brain Canada Foundation’s Canada Brain Research Fund.
- A $30 million budget increase for the Canadian Institute for Health Research.
- An increase of $50 million over two years to the Canada Health Infoway to support short-term digital health activities in e-prescribing and tele-homecare.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association is the national voice for Canada’s 4,700 psychiatrists and more than 900 psychiatric residents. Founded in 1951, the CPA is dedicated to promoting an environment that fosters excellence in the provision of clinical care, education and research.