Budget 2021: BC government sets important precedent for mental health and substance use funding

Today’s Provincial budget announcement of $500M in new funding for expanded mental health and substance use services is critical to the delivery of programs and resources that support the mental health and well-being of British Columbians.

The Province’s investments in social supports like income and disability assistance enhancements and increases to the Senior’s Supplement are critical steps to improving mental health for more people. The impacts of the pandemic have put an unprecedented strain on our collective mental health and have amplified the urgent need for ongoing investment in mental health and substance use care in our province while also addressing the social and economic factors of mental health.

“The last year has really shone a new light on mental health and substance use care,” says Jonny Morris, Chief Executive Officer, CMHA BC. “Faced with the economic, social and psychological fallout of COVID-19, organizations, individuals and communities are looking to ensure more British Columbians get the right help and the right support when they need it.”

At the same time, a new Vantage Point report shows BC’s non-profit sector is struggling: 58% have had an increased demand for programs and services and 71% are expecting a budget shortfall in 2021. This underscores the importance of multi-year, dependable and sustainable funding for mental health and substance use organizations such as CMHA’s across BC and CAI.

“This year’s budget measures set an important precedent for mental health and substance use funding and will make a significant difference in people’s lives,” continues Morris. “Budget 2021, combined with investments made in Budget 2017 and Budget 2019, amounts to approximately $1 billion of new investment, which gets us closer to the $2 billion infusion over four years called for by CMHA. The funds will directly impact critically-needed substance use treatment and recovery services, reinforce prevention and early intervention resources, and focus on key mental health problems intensified by the pandemic like eating disorders. The inclusion of suicide prevention and early psychosis intervention are important.”

“And, given the Province’s vision for transforming BC’s mental health and substance use service system, laid out in A Pathway to Hope, the Province will need to maintain this bold and sustained investment approach in future budgets,” adds Morris. “Sustained investments will support equitable access to everyone’s best possible mental health and substance use care—including adults, seniors and racialized people—to ensure their mental health is not left behind.”

Melinda Markey, Executive Director, CAI agrees. In 2020-2021, with over $11 million in funding from the Province, CAI supported 137 community-based organizations engaged in delivery of mental health and substance use services.

“The investments announced today are an important recognition of the need to strengthen mental health and substance use care across the Province. CAI and CMHA look forward to working with the Province to ensure the contribution of the community, non-profit sector and of the people who, through place-based, community-led approaches, are improving mental health and substance use outcomes in BC,” says Markey.

“However, funding for the community-based mental health and substance use sector continues to be predominantly short-term and is often one-time only,” Markey adds. “There are opportunities for government to support greater successes with dedicated multi-year funding for community-led initiatives. This would allow individuals, families and communities to access services that are integrated with social determinants of health, like housing and income supports, and improve quality of life and well-being.”

About the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
CMHA is Canada’s most established mental health charity and the nation-wide leader and champion for mental health. CMHA helps people access the resources they need to maintain and improve mental health, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness. Each year in BC alone, CMHA serves more than 100,000 people across the province. For mental health and addiction information and resources visit www.cmha.bc.ca

About the Community Action Initiative (CAI)
Community Action Initiative provides grant and training opportunities for community-based organizations across BC to develop and deliver innovative projects that respond to the needs of individuals and families experiencing mental health and/or substance use challenges.

Media Contact:
Lorna Allen
External Relations Specialist, CMHA BC Division
P: 778-858-8805
E: [email protected]