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CMHA BC welcomes Budget 2017’s stronger focus on mental health and addictions

BC Budget: $140 million in targeted investment offers valuable opportunity to act #b4stage4

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) welcomes the Province’s commitment to mental health and addictions care following yesterday’s announcement of a $140 million package of measures aimed at improving child and youth mental health in BC schools, homes, and communities.

This follows Friday’s announcement that the BC Government has signed on to the federal Health Accord, securing $655 million dollars for mental health and addictions care over the next ten years.

“Recent budgets have not emphasized mental health and addictions as much as Budget 2017,” says CMHA BC’s policy director Jonny Morris. It is encouraging to see a 20% increase in the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s (MCFD) line item for child and youth mental health services. This is an important incremental step to the boost in funding needed to close the 70% treatment gap for BC children living with mental health and addiction problems.”

Budget 2017 does place an emphasis on prevention, early intervention, and enhanced treatment supports in community for young people living with mental health and addiction problems, with significant investments in the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Canadian Mental Health Association in BC, FamilySmart (formerly the FORCE), Foundry and other allied partners to move the needle in this area. This is an important step towards a #b4stage4 system of care where mental health and addictions care can stand on a more equal footing with physical health care.

Over 2000 people and six organizations from across BC have signed on to the #b4stage4 manifesto, released by CMHA BC in October 2016. This manifesto makes recommendations for actions across five areas to improve BC’s mental health and addictions system. Budget 2017 does make progress across some of these areas and there is room for continued improvement.

#b4stage4 Manifesto Action Areas:

  1. Let’s focus investments in the prevention of mental health and addiction problems and early intervention when symptoms first arise: More families will now benefit from Confident Parents: Thriving Kids, a parent training program delivered by phone. More families can “ask once – and get help fast.” This helps more kids from developing more serious behavioural problems, meaning more will stay in school, and less will become involved with the justice system. Further, effective and early care for depression is a critical ingredient in our efforts to prevent suicide. Young people (15+) with early symptoms of low mood, stress, or anxiety can now access Bounce Back, a coaching service using cognitive behavioural therapy.
  2. Let’s build an accessible, publicly funded addictions treatment system – The investment in 28 new highly specialized treatment beds is an important step towards building an accessible, publicly funded addictions treatment system for youth. Further, the announced $65 million to house adults living with mental health and substance use problems is a critical intervention and key in supporting recovery. But there is a long road ahead – we need to keep building a standardized, compassionate, evidence-based system of care for all battling substance use problems – reducing the need for our current crisis response – while reorienting toward prevention and early intervention.
  3. Let’s strengthen recovery closer to home in community – Foundry is an excellent example of community-centred, integrated, youth-friendly mental health and substance use care. This investment will double the current number of centres up to 11 across BC with a plan to reach 1,200 – 2,500 young people per year, supporting more young people in community. Funding for post-secondary student mental health is also welcome, and will hopefully build upon the work of Healthy Minds|Healthy Campuses, supporting students in their campus communities. Budget 2017 can do better when it comes to the disability income assistance rate. The $50 per month increase is welcome investment but does not keep up with continued increases in the cost of living in BC. Indexing the Persons with Disability Benefit against the cost of living or looking at an enhanced renters’ grant would have gone a long way for this vulnerable BC population.
  4. Let’s improve crisis care – Increasing the number of community mental health and substance use clinicians to 120 at the Ministry of Children and Family Development is another important step to reduce the 70% treatment gap for children and youth. Demand for services continues to outstrip supply, and 70% of young people with mental health and addiction problems currently do not receive services. And the $1.5M in supports for First Nations communities is a positive step – but more investment in this area – especially prevention – is much needed in helping more First Nation communities move out of a crisis responses towards sustained wellbeing. Sustained investments in prevention and early intervention should divert people from needing crisis care over time.
  5. Let’s lead change in mental health and addictions – building a #b4stage4 system for mental health and addictions in our province will take continued leadership, planning, and a map forward. It is encouraging that mental health and addictions has climbed up the priority list in Budget 2017. It is morally imperative and economically smart to ensure mental health and addictions continue to be a priority for future budgets and actual spending.

To learn more about CMHA BC’s b4stage4 campaign, please visit www.b4stage4.ca.

About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. Each year in BC alone, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people all across the province. For mental health and addiction information and resources visit www.cmha.bc.ca

Media Contact:
Lorna Allen
Communications Coordinator – Media, CMHA BC Division
P: 604-688-3234 ext. 6326
E: [email protected]