Investment in community mental health benefits municipalities, first responders, hospitals: CMHA Ontario's pre-budget submission

(Toronto, Jan 31, 2024) – In order to combat issues related to homelessness, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario’s pre-budget submission urges the provincial government to invest $110 million in stabilization funding and $33 million this year to create a new Community Supportive Housing Innovation Fund (CSHIF).

Continued stabilization funding would allow the community mental health and addictions sector to continue supporting municipal partners, hospitals and first responders. For example, data from just 10 CMHA branches shows that they have diverted more than 17,700 visits from emergency departments over the past two years, which is equal to $7.5 million in hospital costs. “We’re proud of the work we do to help reduce police interactions and divert people from hospital, which benefits both our clients and the community," said Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario. "Providing a community care option for clients can free up emergency room resources and allow for paramedics and police officers to get back on the road quicker after responding to a crisis.” In terms of supportive housing, CSHIF should be earmarked for community-based mental health and addictions providers to support capital investment and operating costs for emerging and evidence-based models of housing with supports.

The community mental health and addictions sector have years of experience in this space, with many collaborative partners in place locally such as municipalities, private landlords, civic-minded developers and other social service providers. Beyond this budget cycle, CMHA Ontario is calling for future investment to expand the fund to $100 million over three years.

“While not all individuals experiencing homelessness have a mental illness, we know that individuals who are homeless are more susceptible to poorer mental health given the extreme challenges they face every day,” said Quenneville. “The Community Supportive Housing Innovation Fund would allow us to support our municipal partners who are struggling to provide wraparound services for individuals at risk.”

Access to housing is a key social determinant of health and studies indicate that people with even a severe mental illness can recover when supportive housing is provided as a first measure.

Investment this year is vital to maintain the momentum from increased government support last year, when Ontario provided the sector the first base budget increase in a decade.

For CMHA Ontario’s complete recommendations on improving Ontario’s mental health and addictions sector, read our pre-budget submission here.

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