(St. Catharines, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018) – This year, people in Niagara have an opportunity to push for lasting change for mental health and addictions care on Bell Let’s Talk Day.

For decades, mental health and addictions services in communities throughout Ontario have been chronically underfunded compared to other parts of the health system, making it impossible to meet the needs of each community.

That’s why Canadian Mental Health Associations (CMHA) across Ontario are urging people to join the call to erase the difference in the lead up to the June provincial election.

“Awareness campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk Day are extremely valuable as they help break the stigma and reduce discrimination associated with mental health and addictions,” said Tara McKendrick, Executive Director of CMHA Niagara.

“But the fact remains that mental health and addictions services in Ontario remain chronically underfunded compared to other parts of the health system,” McKendrick said. “Without regular and ongoing investment into the system, people coming forward to seek help can end up being frustrated by waiting times or unavailability of service to meet their needs, which may cause some harm.”

The burden of mental illness in Ontario is 1.5 times that of all cancers combined and more than seven times of all infectious diseases.[i]

Meanwhile, Ontario devotes $3.5 billion of a total $54-billion health budget to mental health and addictions. [ii],[iii]

The mental health and addictions share of the health budget is 6.5 per cent. In 1979, it was 11.3 per cent. [iv]

There are 30 CMHA branches throughout the province. Together with other local agencies, CMHAs belong to a community-based mental health and addictions sector that serves half a million Ontarians.

Many community-based agencies like CMHA Niagara have received no base budget increases in as many as six years. What’s more, base budget increases prior to 2012 did not match, or keep up with, the annual cost of living index in Ontario. Without ongoing investment, these agencies often face challenges maintaining or enhancing vital services such as crisis support, case management, counselling and supportive housing.

Budget restraints have led to some cuts in service hour availability for certain programs offered by CMHA Niagara, such as Urgent Support Services this past year.

“When you couple budget restraints with rising operational expenditures, we may face challenges with service reduction in the future,” McKendrick said.

Sign the petition at and send a strong message to provincial election candidates that mental health and addictions care in Ontario should be funded the same as physical health care.

Fast Facts:

  • Currently, the average wait time to see a counsellor across Ontario is five months.
  • One in five Ontarians experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year.
  • 500,000 Canadians will miss work due to mental health issues in any given week

About Canadian Mental Health Association, Niagara

CMHA Niagara is a non-profit, charitable organization committed to promoting mental wellness and to improving the lives of people in its service area who have mental illness as well as their families. CMHA Niagara achieves its mission through a number of programs and services.

CMHA Niagara is committed to a recovery philosophy which focuses on the potential for people with mental illness to lead full, productive and engaged lives in their communities. The Branch works in partnership with many others who share in the commitment to supporting the broad determinants of health.


For more information, contact:

Tara McKendrick
Executive Director, CMHA Niagara
905-641-5222 ext. 2530

Kaitlyn Daw
Communications & Events Facilitator
905-641-5222 ext. 2644

[i] Ratnasingham S, Cairney J, Rehm J, Manson H, Kurdyak PA. (2012) Opening Eyes, Opening Minds: The Ontario Burden of Mental Illness and Addictions Report

[ii] Brien et al. (2015). Taking Stock: A report on the quality of mental health and addictions services in Ontario. An HQO/ICES Report. Toronto: Health Quality Ontario and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, as cited in Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (2012) Mental Illness and Addictions: Facts and Statistics.

[iii] Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (2017) 2017- 2018 Published Plan and 2016-2017 Annual Report

[iv] Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (1979) Estimated Allocations of Mental Health and Addictions Expenditures- 1979-1980. Reports published by Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (No longer in publication and not available online).