Budget 2020 falls short for the well-being of Ontarians
November 5, 2020
Today, in response to the release of Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover, Addictions and Mental Health Ontario is warning that the annual investment of $176 million for mental health and addiction care falls well short of what is needed. The government is behind target on the implementation of key foundational elements of their 10 year, $3.8 billion platform commitment to the sector.
“The pandemic is exacerbating mental illness and addiction across the province. Even before COVID-19, community mental health and addiction providers were already underfunded and under supported. That needs to change,” says Adrienne Spafford, CEO of Addictions and Mental Health Ontario.
AMHO is concerned the funding announced is not driven by data or directed to the areas or services where it is critically needed. All funding must be aligned with the Roadmap to Wellness. More foundational work and funding is needed, including flowing the remaining $204 million and release of a comprehensive and coordinated plan tied to public outcomes to meet the growing demand on addiction and mental health services.
AMHO knows COVID-19 is taking a toll on Ontarians’ mental health and substance use. Seventy-four per cent of Ontarians are experiencing increased mental health and addiction challenges because of COVID-19. Almost half of Ontarians have increased their substance use or gambling since the pandemic started. Overdose rates and opioid related deaths have increase during the pandemic by up to 35-40 per cent on a weekly basis. People across the province are dying because they cannot access the services they need.
“Investing in mental health and addiction is critical to COVID recovery efforts, both for the healthcare system and economy,” continues Spafford. “The Ontario government has repeatedly said that mental health and addiction is a top priority, but the funding and action does not back that statement up.”
COVID-19 one-time emergency funding is necessary for providers to respond to the growing demand for mental health and addiction care. Since March, Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, and Children’s Mental Health Ontario have been making the case to government for one-time funding of $100 million to support the sector to continue to deliver essential mental health and addiction treatment and care. AMHO has emphasized to government the need for this funding to flow quickly given the urgent needs and short runway in this fiscal year.
Last month, AMHO shared our Fall Budget Submission with government with recommendations on how the money for this fiscal year should be spent.
These recommendations included:
- Flow the remaining $204 million before the end of the fiscal year and deliver a public, 10-year plan to meet the platform commitment of $3.8B over ten years.
- Mobilize the potential of the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence to drive systematic change and establish a comprehensive and connected addiction and mental health system in Ontario, inclusive of an implementation fund.
- Meaningfully engage with people with lived experience, their loved ones and caregivers to direct investments and design a system that works best for people who need addiction and mental health services.
The time is now to invest in mental health and addiction support for Ontarians. Learn more in AMHO’s Fall Budget Submission.