Story highlights Five provinces told the Canadian government they’re in a “strong position” with regard to their mental health funding system.
The proposed transfer would replace some transfers and add others.
For the five provinces in question, the federal government is expected to make a decision next week.
If Canada is to maintain its highly rated health care system, it’s crucial the government streamline and streamline funding.
A recent report published by the Canadian Medical Association estimated the Canadian government was laying claim to $230 billion — about $500 per person annually — that could be used to better fund mental health services.
One initiative advocated by the CMA would be a new federal mental health transfer that would fund mental health services for adults across the country. The transfer, which would replace some transfers and add others, is designed to increase access to care by eliminating inequalities between provinces and territories.
The proposed transfer would also enable health officials to design health care programs that better address the needs of individuals from various backgrounds.
Earlier this year, nine provinces and territories asked the federal government for more mental health funding, and the federal government’s response was “positive,” says Claire O’Neill, assistant vice president of communications at the Canadian Mental Health Association. “Now, the provinces and territories are asking to give them an opportunity to fully engage, and we’re hopeful to hear a decision by the federal government by next week.”
How the current system works
Currently, about 6.3 million people in Canada are living with a diagnosable mental health issue. This includes those with mental illnesses that are well-acknowledged or who are going through a crisis. These individuals currently receive care from one or more levels of government.
The provinces decide on their own how they want to devote mental health dollars to citizens. For example, the East Coast receives about $72,000 in health care funding per capita compared to Alberta, which receives $213,000, which was the highest funding this year.
The provinces were also given a chance to improve mental health coverage through the Healthy Homes Initiative. The initiative sought to allocate funds to provide housing for those in need. This includes those who may be homeless or who are unable to buy housing due to a mental illness or a physical disability.
The federal government proposed the Health Care Transition Act in 2016, which would establish a new transfer between Canada’s provinces and territories. According to O’Neill, the proposal would be transfer from $24 billion between Canada’s provincial and territorial governments and the federal government to the federal government.
What’s happening now
The House of Commons in Ottawa is scheduled to vote on the proposal on August 12. The Canadian Mental Health Association says they expect MPs to vote it in, which is a promising sign of progress.
If the government approves the transfer, it should reduce red tape and create clearer direction and clarity for funding mental health. This is particularly important given how high unemployment and mental illness rates are in certain regions of the country. A condition like depression may not be recognized in the same way it would if it were in an area with significantly lower unemployment rates.
This is a setback for those provinces that want to restore past transfers. The original plan contemplated taking $34 billion in transfers out of provinces and giving the money to the federal government and devolving power to the provinces again.
Despite the significant pushback, O’Neill says all provinces and territories are in agreement on the transfer, which is “important because it speaks to their strong position.”
(If you would like to support the provision of mental health care as a medicare payment as a form of charity, click here.)