If ever there were evidence to suggest its time the government abandon the mental health bed targets set out in the 1990s Health Restructuring Commission, it is the skyrocketing encounters between police and Ontarians with mental illness.
According to the Toronto Star this weekend, Mental Health Act apprehensions have skyrocketed in the Ontario capital from 520 in 1997 to 8,441 in 2013.
Police can apprehend someone with mental illness if they pose a threat to themselves or others or are unable to care for themselves.
The Star notes that mental health funding has declined since the 1970s when it represented 11.3 per cent of total public health care spending. Today Ontario sits at 7 per cent – slightly below the national average of 7.2 per cent and a great distance from the goal of the Mental Health Commission of Canada to increase the share to 9 per cent. Even that recommendation is presently below what many developed countries are spending.
It’s clear from the numbers that we didn’t substitute community care for institutional care – we mostly just eliminated mental health care.
Now the results are there for everyone to see.