Ottawa, ON – A report released today by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) will better equip policymakers, healthcare administrators and elected officials to make informed decisions about where to best invest targeted mental health dollars.
The report, Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations, is timely given that mental health is a priority in the impending Health Accord, and governments have the opportunity to allocate new funds to mental health. Strengthening the Case outlines evidence-based investments in mental health that can have the greatest impact, while providing governments with the strongest likelihood of recouping their spending down the road.
In any given year, one in five people in Canada experience a mental health problem or illness. “The dollars we spend now on mental health must be seen as an investment in the mental wealth of the people in Canada, rather than a drain on the public purse,” says Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO. “We know that 1.6 million people in Canada report that their need for mental health care isn’t being met.”
As a society, we pay a high price for overlooking those needs. The cost of maintaining the status quo is well over $50 billion annually and rising. However, Strengthening the Case highlights that wise public spending can improve mental health for all when funds are invested in the right place. The report reinforces three broad areas for action: prevention and promotion, community-based services for common mental illnesses and specialized services for people living with severe mental illness.
“Most mental health problems and illnesses can be addressed by fairly inexpensive, often relatively short-term interventions,” says Bradley. For example, for every dollar spent on providing psychotherapy to more people, $2.00 is saved—with the added benefit of improving people’s quality of life.
Some of the best payoffs can come from investing in prevention and early intervention, especially among youth. The highest rate of mental health problems and illnesses is among young adults ages 20-29—a time when people are completing their education or starting careers. Investing in the very early years can save the system nearly 25 per cent in publicly funded services per person. For example, $3.00 invested in Ontario’s long-running community-based early intervention program, “Better Beginnings, Better Futures”, saved $4.00 in public funds.
“There is a unique opportunity to narrow the spending gap between mental health and physical health care,” says the Hon. Michael Wilson, MHCC Board Chair. “The federal commitment is heartening. We have existing national, provincial and territorial strategies aligned with this new report. Governments are primed to accelerate from planning to action.”
An open letter signed by Wilson and Bradley, also released today, urges health ministers to use Strengthening the Case to guide their decisions on where to allocate mental health dollars.
This report brings together important information from the recent but widely dispersed Canadian studies on mental health policy and costs, and presents the information in an integrated, succinct and readable manner.
— Phil Jacobs, DPhil, CMA, Director of Research Collaborations, Institute of Health Economics, Alberta
“Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations shines the light on the need for us to focus on the goals laid out in the MHCC’s 2012 mental health strategy [Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada] to increase the mental health share of health spending to nine per cent. The federal government’s offer of $ 5 billion in Health Accord funding provides provinces with a means to make progress toward this goal. Strengthening the Case provides evidence on value for money investments that will improve people’s lives and health outcomes.”
— Steve Lurie, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association-Toronto Branch
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ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we create change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
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Hélène Côté, Senior Communications Advisor, Marketing and Communications
Mental Health Commission of Canada