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Current Year Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Talk is cheap: Mental health must be top priority in new Health Accord

OTTAWA, October 27, 2016 - Political leaders have a once in a generation opportunity to address an egregious inequity in the Canadian health-care system, says Centre for Addiction and Mental Health President Dr. Catherine Zahn, who called on federal and provincial governments to make mental health the top priority in any new national Health Accord.

“I watched the meeting of the Health Ministers last week with great interest. I was pleased to hear that both the federal and provincial government spoke about finding ways to increase access to mental health care for all Canadians. But as my grandfather used to say, talk’s cheap. To really do better, mental health must make it to the top of the agenda for a Health Accord,” Zahn said in a speech today at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon in Ottawa. “Without bold national leadership at this most historic and opportune time, we’ll fail another generation of Canadians. We are all waiting for a clear and powerful declaration of intention and a collective plan to address this serious gap in our healthcare system.”

Dr. Catherine Zahn
Dr. Catherine Zahn speaking at an event from the Economic Club of Canada (archive photo)

In her speech, Zahn outlined three opportunities provided by the Health Accord to address serious gaps in the mental health care system.

First, dedicated funding for fundamental research and innovation must be earmarked in a sustainable manner in order to uncover the biological causes of conditions such as addiction, depression, schizophrenia, autism and dementia—mental illnesses that collectively cost the Canadian economy $51 billion annually.

Second, a national public wait times standard for mental health must be initiated and continuously monitored, in order to reduce wait times for mental health services across the country. The mental health sector is ready to be held to the same standard as the non-psychiatric healthcare system, Zahn said.

Third, the provincial and federal governments must launch an access to care initiative that provides structured psychotherapy with tight evaluation and accountability structures, with a goal to list that intervention as medically necessary and publicly funded within a reasonable time frame.

“How could we have ended up with a publicly funded health care system that doesn’t cover effective interventions for mental disorders – when we hold mental health as central to all health?” Zahn said. “The patchwork of strategies and action plans hasn’t driven the type of radical transformative change that we so desperately need. Failure of a new federal-provincial Health Accord to include practical action for mental health care would speak volumes – and it would be a grave disappointment. It would perpetuate an injustice to Canadian citizens who live with mental illness. It would fly in the face of the right of Canadians to decent health care. And it would break any promise to do better.”


For more information
Sean O’Malley Media Relations, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) (416) 595-6015

About the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit or follow @CAMHnews on Twitter.


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