City of Toronto Mental Health Roundtable calls for increased collaboration and funding to meet city’s urgent challenges

2023 June 2

Today, Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park) hosted a Mental Health Roundtable, bringing together political, community, emergency response and health leaders from across the city to discuss the pressing challenges that Torontonians face in mental health and addictions.

The Roundtable explored key actions that could be taken to address the mental health challenges faced by the city’s residents.

During the Roundtable, one crucial point that was emphasized revolved around the disparity between the local-level impacts of mental health and addiction and the responsibility for funding healthcare and treatment, which lies with the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts estimated that mental health issues constituted 10 per cent of all diseases experienced in Ontario, necessitating a proportional allocation of health spending to tackle the matter. However, only seven per cent of healthcare spending was allocated towards mental health and addictions support, resulting in an investment gap. The effects of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use have further exacerbated the need for increased funding to address the growing demands and challenges within Toronto.

The City of Toronto alongside emergency response, community and health leaders from across Toronto are urging the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada to provide the necessary funding to support mental health and addiction services in the city. They are calling on other orders of government to allocate the City’s fair share of mental health and substance use funding, which amounts to approximately 10 per cent of overall health spending, in line with Toronto’s roughly 20 per cent share of the provincial population.

Roundtable participants recognized three key needs:

  • Ongoing and sustainable funding for shelter services and increased funding for supportive housing to support individuals experiencing homelessness;
  • Establishing 24/7 mental health and substance use crisis centres and increasing treatment capacity; and
  • Implementing a provincial coordination protocol that enhances support for the seamless transfer of individuals experiencing mental health and/or substance use crises to hospital emergency departments.

By addressing the challenges surrounding patient-transfer issues between first responders and emergency rooms, this provincial protocol will contribute to more effective and compassionate care for individuals in need.

The City will create an implementation table with the help of roundtable participants, community service providers, and those with lived experience to support actions to address these priorities. Simultaneously, the City is taking steps to develop a comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy that addresses the worsening mental health issues and substance use challenges within the city. Toronto Public Health (TPH) is developing this strategy, which will encompass mental health promotion and substance use prevention approaches. TPH expects to present the Strategy to the Toronto Board of Health in the fall of 2023.

The City recognizes the urgent need for increased funding and concerted efforts to address the mental health challenges faced by its residents. By investing in mental health and substance use services, the City aims to improve the well-being and outcomes of its residents, while creating a more resilient and supportive community.