The Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health
The Hon. Brandy Payne, Alberta Associate Minister of Health
The Hon. Terry Lake, British Columbia Minister of Health
The Hon. Kelvin Goertzen, Manitoba Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living
The Hon. Victor Boudreau, New Brunswick Minister of Health
The Hon. Dr. John Haggie, Newfoundland and Labrador Minister of Health and Community Services
The Hon. Glen Abernethy, Northwest Territories Minister of Health and Social Services
The Hon. Leo Glavine, Nova Scotia Minister of Health
The Hon. George Hickes, Nunavut Minister of Health
The Hon. Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario Minister of Health
The Hon. Robert Henderson, Prince Edward Island Minister of Health and Wellness
The Hon. Dr. Gaétan Barrette, Québec Minister of Health and Social Services
The Hon. Jim Reiter, Saskatchewan Minister of Health
The Hon. Pauline Frost, Yukon Minister of Health and Social Services
Dear Ministers of Health,
We are encouraged by the unique opportunity offered by the Health Accord process and the federal commitment to increase investments in the mental health system for the first time in decades. Prioritizing the mental “wealth” of people in Canada will help us tackle the growing $50 billion dollar economic cost of mental health problems and illnesses.
A new report released today by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) underscores that making wise investments in evidence-based treatments will help all levels of government improve mental health outcomes, while saving taxpayers’ dollars.
Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations refreshes and updates the work published by the MHCC in 2013, which laid out the compelling economic argument for investing in mental health. Now, the MHCC has gone one step further by examining where investments have the greatest impact, and therefore, provide governments with the strongest likelihood of recouping their spending down the road.
The examples highlighted in Strengthening the Case aren’t inflexible or prescriptive. Rather, they point to the kinds of effective spending that can be tailored to the needs of specific populations, spanning prevention, promotion and community-based services. The strategic investment of new money allocated to mental health can translate to savings across the lifespan. This is because many mental health problems and illnesses begin in childhood, when they are mild to moderate in nature, requiring relatively low cost interventions that pay off in the longer term.
By way of example, Ontario’s Better Beginnings Better Futures Program saves the healthcare system nearly 25 percent in publicly funded services per person. These savings come from fewer physician visits and reduced social welfare and education costs. We also know that making psychotherapies more available for a greater number of people can save two dollars in the long term for every dollar spent now.
Another means of spending smart is community-based rapid response teams, which can successfully intervene when young people are experiencing suicidal thoughts for half the cost normally incurred by hospitals.
Strengthening the Case is a valuable addition to a growing body of work that supports the implementation of various provincial, territorial and national mental health and addictions strategies. Simple, immediate interventions at the community level can often head-off decades of future spending. In fact, only a tiny percentage of people living with the most serious mental illnesses require highly specialized or intensive care.
Together, we can begin the long-term process, inch by inch, dollar by dollar, of building a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. We can fund services and supports that will help stave off the growing financial cost of mental illness, while investing in better outcomes.
As a former Minister of Finance, and, as my co-author, a former hospital administrator can attest, budgetary decisions should be made with the best intentions and in light of the best available information. It is our hope that this new report will help to inform your decisions, or, in some cases, reaffirm your choices.
Yours in health,
The Honourable Michael Wilson, P.C., C.C.
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.
www.mentalhealthcommission.ca | strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca
Hélène Côté, Senior Communications Advisor, Marketing and Communications
Mental Health Commission of Canada