The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) released the discussion paper entitled From Out of the Shadows and Into the Light…Achieving Parity in Access to Care Among Mental Health, Substance Use and Physical Health. The document outlines the case for the federal government to introduce a new piece of legislation – a Mental Health and Substance Use Health Care For All Parity Act – and identifies some the elements that could be contained therein to improve access to mental health and substance use health services and supports in Canada. By releasing the report, CAMIMH hopes that it will engender a growing public policy discussion about the role of the federal government, working in close partnership with the provinces and territories, to ensure that Canadians get the care they need, when they need it.
On April 19th, the federal government presented its first budget in more than 24 months. The CPA issued a news release emphasizing that the pandemic recovery will depend on our mental health investments.
The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) also publicly commented on the budget noting that it was a missed opportunity to invest in the mental health of Canadians. The Canadian Consortium on Research (CCR) also expressed concerns about the lack of investment in basic research.
With the passage of Bill C-7 – An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in Dying [MAiD]), the federal government must complete an independent review by experts to consider the safeguards and protocols for requests for MAiD for persons who have a mental illness within the next 12 months. The CPA has written the Minister of Justice and Health requesting that a psychologist, with MAiD expertise be a member of this review. . In 2020, a CPA Task Force released a report on MAID and Practice Guidelines for Psychologists Involved in End-of-Life Decisions.
As part of the federal government’s pre-budget consultation process of which CPA contributed to, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance released its report. Importantly, two of its top five recommendations focused on investing in a long-term mental health COVID-19 recovery plan for all Canadians, and targeted investments that will improve access to primary care, mental health supports and virtual care. It also included a recommendation to provide a one-time 25% increase in funding to the Tri-Councils for research restart and recovery. Hopefully all three will be reflected in the 2021 federal budget.
Given that Prime Minister Trudeau recently signalled the federal government’s willingness to discuss increasing its share of health funding to the provinces and territories, the CPA wrote to the Prime Minister and Premier urging them to increase their investments in mental health services and treatments.
The CPA recently released a position paper Addressing Climate Change in Canada: The Importance of Psychological Science . The paper has been shared with the Minister of the Environment and Minister of Health.
Dr. Karen Cohen (CPA CEO) co-Chairs the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC), having been appointed by Canada’s Minister of Revenue at the end of 2017 through 2019, and renewed through 2021. Its mandate is to advise the Minister of National Revenue and the Commissioner of the CRA on the administration and interpretation of policy and programs related to disability tax measures. In the fall of 2020, the DAC has undertaken a series of focus groups with health providers on the committee’s 2019 recommendations on changes to disability tax procedures and legislation. It is also in the process of finalizing its 2020 report. The 2021 federal government budget set aside $376 million over 5 years to update the list of mental functions that is used for the assessment of the Disability Tax Credit.
In advance of the federal government’s Speech from the Throne, the CPA sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasizing the importance of investing in the mental health of Canadians as a high strategic priority.
The CPA submitted its own Brief which included six recommendations to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance as part of the 2021 pre-budget consultation process. In addition, as a member of several strategic partnerships, the CPA played a key role in the writing of other Briefs that were submitted by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Illness (CAMIMH), the Canadian Consortium of Research (CCR), Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), and the Extended Healthcare Professionals Coalition (EHPC). Convergence of messaging across national organizations signals to the federal government there is consensus about where and how they should invest in the science and practice of psychology that supports the mental health of Canadians.
In August 2020, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) released its Mental Health Action Plan (Better Access and System Performance for Mental Health Services in Canada) , which included six recommendations for the federal government to implement to improve timely access to mental health services and supports in Canada. This is an important example where the national mental health community is speaking with one voice.
The CPA undertook a detailed review of the series of Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) bi-lateral agreements (i.e., the $11 billion over 10 years for home and community care, and mental health and addiction services) that were signed in 2017. It also identifies the key priorities to be addressed by each province and territory.
The CPA reviewed the 2019 Mandate Letters that were issued by the Prime Minister to ministers of the crown that are relevant to the priorities of the association.
The Section on Criminal Justice has met to discuss how to re-engage the federal government and others to amend Section 672.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada to explicitly designate psychologists to be able to perform assessments of fitness to stand trial and criminal responsibility. In 2017, the CPA released the following position paper Fitness to Stand Trial and Criminal Responsibility Assessments in Canada: Improving Access to Qualified Mental Health Professionals.
Dr. Karen Cohen (CPA CEO) serves as co-Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) Psychotherapy Policy Implementation Network (PPIN). Its goal is to develop a psychotherapy access action plan focused on the public health care system. She sits on two of their working groups – one on COVID-19 and the other on funding models. Glenn Brimacombe (CPA Director of Policy and Public Affairs, CPA), is a member of the PPIN working group examining structures and funding models that would enable the federal government to fund and/or deliver better access to psychotherapy services.
Dr. Karen Cohen (CPA CEO) represents the profession on the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) advisory committee on e-mental health whose work is ongoing, most recently reviewing outcomes of Wellness Together Canada (Health Canada’s stepped care mental health response to the pandemic) and the digital mental health services delivered to youth by Kids Help Phone.
The CPA continues to provider letters of support to members in support of tri-council funding (i.e., CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC) and in support of award nominations. In some cases of tri-council funding applications, the CPA was added to the grant applications as a Knowledge User/Collaborator/Mobilizer.