Pay now or pay even more later: Coalition wants first ministers to boost mental health spending

pay now or pay even more later: coalition wants first ministers to boost mental health spending

Prime minister and his provincial counterparts to talk health spending over dinner Friday
By Chris Hall, CBC News

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has agreed to add health care to the menu at this week’s gathering of first ministers, a concession to the provinces who want Ottawa to pick up a greater share of health-care spending.

The increase in federal health transfers to the provinces will be held to three per cent this year instead of six per cent — a cost-saving measure introduced by the previous Conservative government that the Liberals are keeping as they try to negotiate another health-care accord.

But that’s not the only discussion health professionals want the prime minister and premiers to have around the dinner table Friday. Members of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, a coalition of 16 organizations, are urging them to immediately commit more resources to battling mental illness.

“If we don’t start dealing with this sooner rather than later, I think we’ll have a generation of young adults and children who are quite stressed out, with increasing rates of anxiety and depression across the board,” said Dr. Raj Bhatla, chief psychiatrist at the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, one in five Canadians suffers from some form of mental illness each year. Put in perspective, that’s roughly three times the number of people with Type 2 diabetes.

About 70 per cent of young adults living with mental health problems report the symptoms started in childhood. Nearly a third of all hospital stays in Canada are due to mental disorders.

The prime minister is aware of the impact of mental health issues on families. His mother, Margaret, wages a very public battle with bipolar disorder.

“There is no Canadian who doesn’t have a friend or family member affected by mental health,” Trudeau said last month. “We know the challenges to communities, to families and our economy. It is long past time Canada stepped up.”



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