Community mental health and addictions at a crisis point: CMHA Ontario at budget committee


With the budget due next month and the province in surplus, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario is urging the government to commit $125 million to bolster the community mental health and addictions sector to make up for decades of underfunding.

Without vital structural funding, the community sector will continue struggling to meet increased demand for service and lose staff who are burned out and exhausted.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, requests for mental health support for adults has increased nearly 50 per cent, and more than 100 per cent for child and youth.

More than 2,800 Ontarians died from opioid-related causes in 2021, the last year statistics are available.

Municipalities big and small are calling for coordinated action to address a homelessness crisis gripping their communities.

And community agencies like CMHAs are balancing service targets while also desperately trying to retain burned out and exhausted staff. Across Ontario, nearly 250 CMHA community mental health and addictions jobs are left unfilled.

“Our sector has been severely underfunded and Ontarians are seeing the negative impact of that in cities and towns across the province every day,” said Camille Quenneville, CEO, CMHA Ontario. “It’s clear we’re overdue for action and funding to address the increasing demand for mental health and addictions support in communities across Ontario.”

Quenneville and her colleagues from two Toronto-area branches will make the case for an additional $125 million for the sector at tomorrow’s finance and economic affairs committee at Queen’s Park. They are echoing calls from other CMHAs that have attended pre-budget consultations held by the finance minister, his parliamentary secretary and the committee.

The province has the dollars for a significant investment in mental health and addictions care. Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office projects a $5-billion shortfall in health care expenditure over the next three years.

There’s also Ottawa’s recent funding commitment to improve the health care system, including specific bilateral funding for mental health and addictions and a commitment to data reporting.

“CMHA branches are at the forefront of the mental health data strategy in Ontario and we welcome the opportunity to justify data-driven investment in the community mental health and addiction sector,” Quenneville said.

“We urge the province to quickly finalize the federal funding agreement to help address Ontarians’ most pressing mental health and addiction needs.”

Fast Facts:

  • In Sudbury, the CMHA overnight shelter with wraparound supports has had to close six times last year due to lack of staffing, impacting as many as 210 people.
  • In Cochrane-Timiskaming, CMHA crisis response mental health services responded to more than 210 calls, diverting people from interactions with hospital and police and saving close to $100,000.
  • Every $10 invested in supportive housing results in more than $21 in savings across health care, social services and justice systems.
  • Ontario spends $66 billion on health care. Less than three per cent ($1.96 billion) is for community based mental health and addictions care.