Every year two million people in Ontario visit a physician seeking support and treatment for mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and substance use disorder; but we know the number of Ontarians living with mental illness is much higher.
As Minister of Health, I believe there is no health without mental health. We have the evidence, partnerships and dedicated workforce to deliver the type of quality mental health services that people have come to expect for all other aspects of their health system.
Mental illness results in more years of life lost to death than cancer, and requires the same determined focus on driving improvements to treatment and access to supports and services. Mental health must be prioritized in the same way we treat physical health, and seen as just as important.
When it comes to the mental health system, we acknowledge there’s more that can be done. But in 2016/2017, we’ve made progress to lay the foundation for an evidence-based, accountable system where all Ontarians can get access to integrated, high quality mental health services in their community as soon as they reach out for help.
Our government recently announced new investments of $140 million over three years, with a sustained increase of $50 million every year moving forward, to expand access to mental health services and reduce wait times.
A key part of this investment is developing a province-wide, publicly funded, structured psychotherapy program that includes access to supports such as cognitive behavioural therapy. We will be the first province in Canada to do so.
Ontario is also creating a network of up to nine integrated Youth Service Hubs that will provide one-stop access to mental health services, as well as other health, peer-to-peer, employment and housing supports for young people 12 – 25 years old.
Our government will also support the development of up to 1,150 additional supportive housing units for people with serious mental illness, on top of the 1,000 new units added over the last three years. Once this new investment is fully implemented, Ontario will be providing almost 17,000 units of dedicated supportive housing across the province for people with a mental illness, and other vulnerable populations.
These immediate investments were informed by recommendations from Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council. Our government is also moving forward on a multi-year transformation of our mental health system based on the council’s advice, as well as input from a diverse group of experts from various backgrounds, including those with lived experience. These changes will include:
- Developing a province-wide set of core mental health services that will be available and accessible to all Ontarians, regardless of where they live in the province.
- Improving service delivery by ensuring a province-wide approach to quality assurance and improvement. This will enable every person in Ontario to benefit from a high quality system, similar to the help and treatment that is available for other chronic disease treatments.
- Developing a data strategy to drive quality improvement through standardization, streamlining and centralization of data and outcomes.
Ontario is putting patients first – regardless of whether it is a physical ailment or a mental illness. We will continue to focus on creating a province where everyone has the opportunity to have good mental health and well-being, and can be part of welcoming, healthy and supportive communities.