February 19, 2021
“Addictions and Mental Health Ontario supports the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. This is welcome news and these changes are long overdue to prioritize the health and safety of an individual over punishment for people who use drugs.
The criminalization towards people who use drugs have disproportionately punished Indigenous Peoples, Black Peoples, and Peoples of Colour to the point of being overrepresented in the legal system. While there are significant gaps in data reported on community mental health and addiction services, it is largely understood that Indigenous Peoples, Black Peoples, and Peoples of Colour have worse mental health and substance use outcomes compared to other populations.
These changes are a step in the right direction in allowing judges and law enforcement to ask an individual to seek mental health or addiction support, rather than ordering prison time, but we cannot ignore the significant wait times that currently exist for these supports.
Before COVID-19, individuals were waiting approximately 50 days for access to publicly funded residential addiction services. Since the onset of the pandemic, the wait has grown to almost 100 days. For the first time in history, community outpatient addiction programs have wait times for services.
AMHO continues to call on an implementation plan for the provincial government’s Roadmap to Wellness that prioritizes reducing wait times for services. This strategy needs to include a focus on priority populations and establish clear pathways of care to simplify navigation for people looking for help.
It is imperative mental health and addiction supports are available in order for meaningful and sustained change in the legal system.”
Adrienne Spafford, CEO