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Proposal to transfer federal mental health met with opposition from provinces

OTTAWA – Although provincial governments are calling for more funds to strengthen their health systems after COVID-19, some are resisting the promise of Free elections to provide funding specifically for mental health. God.

Federal contributions to provincial health systems, including mental health services, are funded by Canada Health Transfer.

During the federal election campaign, the Liberals proposed a transfer specifically targeted at mental health care, starting with $4.5 million over five years.

Deliveries will be made to national standards to ensure a certain level of nationally accessible care.

Two provinces at opposite ends of the political spectrum agree that specialized transfers are the wrong approach.

“What they’re proposing is both ineffective and undermining the fundamentals while there’s a debate about, in some respects, credit. I don’t think that’s what we need.” , British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

BC currently funds its mental health services using Canada Health Transfer, and Dix said the province will need to continue to do so even once a separate transfer is established.

That’s because it’s not possible to analyze mental health funding from the rest of the health system, he said.

“Mental health is linked to physical health, and the best way to address those issues is to address the Canadian Health Transition,” he said.

All the provinces and territories have come together to ask the federal government to immediately increase its share of overall health care costs from 22 to 35 percent – an increase of about $28 billion this year.

They have also requested a minimum annual funding increase of 5%, arguing that the current plan for a 3% increase in spending means remittances are not keeping up with annual cost increases.

All provinces agree that increased funding must be accompanied by conditions set forth by the federal government, so that each jurisdiction can target their own needs.

“We have unique challenges and solutions, and we believe the Government of Canada will be most effective if it focuses on being a funding partner and advancing common goals, rather than specifying specific goals.” priority or specific solutions with conditional funding or dedicated transfers,” said Alberta Health Minster Jason Copping spokesman Steve Buick.

While both Alberta and BC appoint ministerial posts to signal their focus on mental health, the provinces have very different approaches to addressing the issue, for example.

Federal Mental Health Minister Carolyn Bennett said in an interview the new transfer is not about taking credit for mental health services. Instead, she says it’s about developing a national mental health strategy and introducing funds to implement it.

“It’s not just about hospitals and doctors, but knowing that we have to build mental health workforce, we have to build a digital strategy to increase health literacy,” said Bennett. mental”.

One benefit of dedicated transfers is that the federal government will be able to gauge whether the funds are yielding results, she said.

The idea already has the backing of the NDP, as long as there are good standards to go with the fund.

NDP mental health critic Gord Johns said: “I think moving money to mental health care, to get it spent on mental health care, is really important and warrants accountability. accountability for where that money is spent,” said NDP mental health critic Gord Johns.

“We will urge the government to fund transfers to mental health-driven provinces and ensure that there are standards set forth under the Health Canada Act and greater accountability to ensure that money is spent on mental health.”

With all the stress health systems have suffered during the pandemic, such as the surgical backlog, staffing and capacity shortages, said Michel Rodrigue, Chairman of the Canadian Mental Health Commission. In acute care, mental health could fall on the priority list without dedicated federal funding.

Canada has spent less on mental health than some other OECD countries, Mr. Rodrigue said.

While Britain spends 12% of its health budget on mental health, Canada spends only 7%, he said.

“We see remittances as a powerful tool to fill a longstanding gap in the patchwork of mental health services in our country,” he said.

The federal and provincial governments have not yet begun negotiations on the delivery of mental health care, but the prime ministers have requested a first ministerial meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to fund care. health care.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 25, 2021.

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