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Published on October 3rd, 2016 | from CAMH

Health equity for all Canadians

catherine_zahn-2015_headshot-cropBy Dr. Catherine Zahn, CAMH President & CEO |   

Over the coming months, our political leaders will be faced with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to amplify that awareness and to ensure that mental health is a top health care priority for the next decade. They will have the opportunity to move the needle from talk to action.

On October 18th, the federal Minister of Health will meet with her provincial counterparts to discuss renegotiation of a new accord, an agreement that she hopes to have in place before year end.  The federal health accord is a long-term agreement between the federal and provincial governments that creates a roadmap for how federal health care funding is spent across the country.

Under the last accord in 2004, Canada’s first ministers signed a 10-year agreement that included a commitment to improve access to five clinical procedures. It included an investment of 5.5 billion dollars for a wait time initiative that spurred provincial investments to meet specific targets and reduce wait times for patients. Mental health care wasn’t on the list.

While there’s been significant progress on mental health in Canada, too many people are not getting the care they need. Funding levels do not match the burden of illness. Wait lists grow. People are in pain. Lives are lost.

As our Ministers of Health meet to create a new agreement, they need to hear from all of us that a failure of this relationship to include practical action for mental health care will speak volumes.

They need to hear that people with mental illness, and those who stand with them, will no longer stand for less than justice.

Plenty of time has been spent on strategy – it’s now time to implement the initiatives that will transform lives.

Follow Catherine on Twitter at @CatherineZahn

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2 Responses to Health equity for all Canadians

  1. John Scully says:

    I am a mental health patient in crisis. I suffer from severe depression, anxiety and PTSD. Used to be that
    my CAMH psychiatrist would refer me to the AIM (inhouse) programme. But lack of government funds has closed that option. Now I’m left with either trying to get in an emergency bed or merely wait this current crisis out. And, of course. suicide is always on the horizon. This is a direct result of cuts in government funding for mental health care. Would cancer patients have to face these options? Not a chance.

  2. Kathleen Mochnacki says:

    Increasing funds does not necessarily translate into better outcomes. Some patients get excellent care from excellent psychiatrists and others do not. In our family support group, one family caregiver relayed how a psychiatrist from the local hospital actually came and made a home visit to her psychotic son who had been without treatment for many years and on the verge of starvation. The son was involuntarily hospitalized and the psychiatrist would not only check on him daily but actually sought input from the parents. This is the kind of psychiatrist which families need. Unfortunately, the psychiatrist’s caseload is maxed out. We need more caring psychiatrists and we also need caring professionals who have medical training in serious mental illness. So even if funding is increased, that does not necessarily guarantee better outcomes in the current mental health system. There needs to be a paradigm shift in how we address the treatment of mental illness such as more appropriate training for community professionals, better communication between hospitals and community agencies, following a patient/ family model of care as recommended by the MHCC Family Guidelines since most mentally ill people live at home and compassion and respect. We also need much more research to be done about these horrific psychiatric disorders.

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