CMHA election monitor: Pandemic recovery includes mental health and addictions care for all Ontarians

(Toronto, Monday, May 9, 2022) – More than one in five people say pandemic recovery is their top issue this election which is why Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario urges parties to think about increased access to mental health and addictions care the same way as lowering taxes, growing the economy and building schools.

People have been waiting far too long for easier access to mental health and addiction care. The pandemic has made things worse. For example:

  • At CMHA Waterloo Wellington, crisis calls have increased by 40 per cent and there are more than 3,670 people on a wait list for mental health and addictions care.
  • At CMHA Toronto, there are about 550 people on a centralized wait list for services.
  • Wait times for CMHA supportive housing range from six months in Fort Frances, nine months in Niagara, nearly three years in Brantford and 3.5 years in London.
  • Average wait times for children and youth are 67 days for counselling and therapy and 92 days for intensive treatment.

“Pandemic recovery is complex and should focus on the mental wellness of individuals, families, students and the workforce in addition to key issues like infrastructure and jobs,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario.

“For those struggling with a mental health and addictions issue, getting off a wait list and into care is more important than anything else this campaign,” she said. “CMHAs and other community providers are ready to help but we need ongoing stabilization funding to help as many Ontarians as we can.”

While previous governments have funded mental health and addictions care, investment is always time-limited and earmarked to maintain a specific program or launch a singular new service.

Unlike other health sectors, funding is rarely if ever provided to cover infrastructure, rising operating costs and salaries.

CMHA branches need an immediate eight per cent increase in base budget funding. This stabilization funding will help community providers address operating costs, retain staff who are leaving due to burn out and exhaustion, deliver more services and reduce wait times.

“So far in this campaign, we’ve heard of past records and new commitments to allow more Ontarians gain access to support,” Quenneville said. “But what happens when people reach out to us for service only to be placed on a wait list or find out there aren’t enough mental health and addictions staff available to help them.”

CMHA Ontario’s “I choose” campaign is using the election campaign to spotlight mental health and addictions care in Ontario.

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