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Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations

Jun 14
The need to invest in Mental Health is no longer in dispute. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) first released the report on Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in 2013. In March 2017, the MHCC released Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations to identify areas for strategic mental health funding to improve the mental health of Canadians.

Chronic underfunding has exacerbated the enormous toll mental health takes on people in Canada, both in human and economic terms. In 2015, the $15.8 billion spent by the public and private sectors for mental health care represents only 7.2% of Canada’s total health spending, measuring well below Canada’s G8 peers. This leaves many unmeet needs on services. In 2012, an estimated 1.6 million Canadians reported their mental health care needs were only partially met or not met at all. Underfunding also contributes to increase system pressures shown in increased hospital use among young people 10 – 17 years old with mood and anxiety disorders. Finally, wait times have been reported to range from 59 weeks in Newfoundland to 15 weeks in Ontario, an increase of more than one week from 2014. Even wait times to receive psychotherapy can range from three to 22 weeks and from five to 14 weeks to access an assertive community treatment or a similar program. Increased wait times have further cost implications for individuals with mental health problems and on healthcare services. Treatment for mental health disorders are significantly costlier with later diagnosis and later intervention.

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The MHCC identified a large proportion of mental health needs could be met through primary and public health services (Table 4). This is aligned with evidence in research that reinforces the importance of focusing on mental health promotion, prevention, early intervention, and securing better primary level care for mild to moderate mental health conditions. Additionally, evidence-based specialized care needs to be ensured for people living with severe mental health problems and illnesses.

The report detailed three different types of healthcare costs: 1) direct expenditures; 2) indirect or spillover costs; and 3) loss of quality of life and disability due to mental health disorders/intangible costs. The report additionally includes reviews of cost-effective investments already undertaken across Canada.
Continual effort to address the gaps in mental health care across Canada are taking place at government levels as well as at grassroots level. Additional efforts to leverage new technologies to increase accessibility can enhance the efforts at all levels of mental health care services across Canada.
 
To read the full report follow the link below. 

Full Article Link: https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/sites/default/files/2017-03/case_for_investment_eng.pdf

Kathleen Qu, M.Sc

Kathleen Qu is the Product Manager of FeelingBetterNow. She has a background in global health and policy research. She is an advocate in breaking down barriers for mental health access.