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From: Submission to the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions. Presented by Paul Garfinkel, June 3, 2009.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is the largest mental health and addictions facility in Canada. CAMH is a teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and has been recognized internationally as a Pan-American Health Organization and World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.

CAMH seeks to improve the lives of those affected by addiction and mental health problems and promote health. We operate central clinical and research facilities in Toronto, as well as 27 satellite offices across the province that work with partners to improve the quality and accessibility of services within the addiction and mental health system. While CAMH's work focuses on the needs of Ontario communities, our impact extends across the country and internationally.

CAMH has begun a physical transformation at its primary site on Queen Street West in Toronto. The site was developed as an asylum, and the patient spaces promote isolation and dependence. Our current physical environment emphasizes the separateness of mental health and addiction problems from the mainstream of community life. Yet dramatic advances in treatment and a growing appreciation for the prevalence of these conditions tell us that supporting people with mental health and addiction problems must take place in our schools, our workplaces, our families and our communities as well as in health care institutions. That is why our physical redevelopment will emphasize the connection of the person to the community, and the central role the individual plays in leading his or her recovery.

Mental Health and Addictions – Out of the Shadows

Mental health and addiction problems have attracted significant attention in recent years. More than any other factor, the individual narratives of recognizing mental health and addiction problems, seeking help from others and finding hope have been instrumental in gaining greater public acceptance. At the national level, on the recommendation of the Senate Committee Report Out of the Shadows at Last (PDF), the government has created the Mental Health Commission of Canada. The Commission has a mandate to develop a national mental health plan, launch a campaign against stigma, and promote knowledge exchange. In Ontario, significant new investments have been made in community mental health over the past five years, and capacity in community mental health has been expanded. The current Minister of Health and Long-Term Care has begun a ministerial process to develop a provincial mental health and addictions strategy. The creation of the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario is further evidence of a growing interest in mental health and addiction problems, and is welcomed by all who seek greater attention paid to these issues.

Yet enthusiasm is tempered by experience. The progress that has been made in recognizing the rights and capacities of people with mental health and addictions – and in improving the available treatments – remains compromised by three significant factors:

  • The stigma against persons with mental illness and addictions remains a barrier to care.
  • Funding for mental health and addictions treatments are simply inadequate relative to the burden of illness.
  • The capacity of mental health and addiction services to act as a system – built around the particular needs of individual clients – needs to improve.

Ontario’s mental health and addiction strategy must address stigma, offer the hope of enriched funding, and support improved systems of care. The recommendations CAMH makes in this document address these three fundamental challenges to improved care for people with mental health and addiction problems.

In Submission to the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions:

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