Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members, and good afternoon. The Canadian Psychiatric Association is very pleased to be with you this afternoon.
My name is Dr. Nachiketa Sinha, and I am the CPA president. I am joined at the table by Mr. Glenn Brimacombe, CEO of the CPA.
The CPA is a member-based voluntary professional association and is considered the national voice of psychiatry. We all understand the essentialness of one's mental health and its relationship to our quality of life, our relationships, and sense of belonging, as well as fulfilling our potential as a productive and contributing member of society.
To underscore this point, I have shared with the committee, as part of our written submission, a series of infographics that make compelling sense for the need to invest in a range of mental health initiatives. In our view, investments focused on mental health prevention and promotion, improved access to care, early diagnosis and treatment, and the availability of appropriate community services and supports can change the trajectory of someone who suffers from mental illness. We believe that the mental health of Canadians is integrally tied to the future prosperity of this great country and to the precondition that must be addressed to unleash the unlimited potential that is Canada. In short, mental health must be our first wealth.
When it comes to funding mental health services and support, the federal government has indeed made an historic choice by investing $5 billion over the next 10 years for mental health. The CPA strongly applauds the federal government for its leadership and foresight in focusing on a sector of the health system that has been systematically underfunded for decades.
To make this point even clearer, last week at our annual conference, the CPA conferred its highest civilian honour, the president's commendation, on the Prime Minister.
While $500 million per year for the next 10 years earmarked for mental health is surely an important step that will begin to provide needed resources to a system that is already stretched, the CPA, which is a member of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, has called on governments to increase funding for mental health from 7% to a minimum of 9%, which, by our calculations, would require an annual investment by the federal government of $778 million. This would also see the federal government contributing 25% of provincial expenditures for mental health.
As we move forward, we hope that the federal government will continue to invest in mental health services and programs across the country. With the objective of accelerating the introduction of proven and/or promising mental health innovations, the CPA calls on the federal government to establish a five-year, $100-million mental health innovation fund. You may recall that the rationale for such a fund was clearly articulated by the Naylor health innovation report, and innovation is a point that is recognized by the “Common Statement of Principles on Shared Health Priorities” released by federal, provincial, and territorial governments a couple of weeks ago.
The CPA also recognizes that in many cases mental health research is often the precursor to new cost-effective innovations that are ultimately introduced into the health system. By investing in mental health research, we can accelerate the impact of evidence-based decision-making. Currently it is our understanding that the Canadian Institutes of Health Research devote less than 5% of grant-based funding to mental health research while the burden of mental health stands at more than 10%. Clearly more can be done.
We are aware of the government's intent to legalize cannabis in 2018. In May 2017, the CPA released its position statement, “Implications of Cannabis Legalization on Youth and Young Adults.” In short, the CPA recommends that Canadians should not be legally allowed to use marijuana until the age of 21 and that legislation should restrict the quantity and potency of that drug until they are 25.
While the CPA was not invited to appear before the Standing Committee on Health, despite our requests, there is a responsibility on the federal government to ensure that adequate resources are invested in the areas of public education, research, prevention, early identification, cannabis-cessation treatment programs, and advertising and marketing guidelines. The CPA stands ready to work with the government to protect the mental health of Canadians.
Finally, the CPA is concerned with the proposed changes by the federal government with regard to incorporation.
While we are supportive of the leadership role that the Canadian Medical Association and others have played, we are concerned that the proposed measures would only serve to exacerbate the already low number of practising psychiatrists, and in particular new psychiatrists who are looking to establish a practice in Canada.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before this committee.