Question Period Note: Federal Actions Taken to Improve Access to Mental Health and Substance Use


Reference number:
Date received:
Dec 21, 2023
Health Canada
Name of Minister:
Saks, Ya'ara (Hon.)
Title of Minister:
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions


In collaboration with provincial and territorial partners, the Government of Canada is working to increase access to the full continuum of mental health and substance use services to better support the needs of Canadians.
Key federal actions include increasing investments to provinces and territories to improve access to mental health and substance use services, as well as on targeted initiatives on key priorities, such as integrated services for children and youth, suicide prevention, and addressing the overdose crisis and toxic drug supply.

Suggested Response:

Increasing access to the continuum of mental health and substance use services through a compassionate and person-centered approach is central to our health care plan.
The significant federal investments committed in Budget 2023 will help better integrate mental health and substance use services within health systems, enabling Canadians to access the care they need.
We are also working with provinces and territories to advance key initiatives, such as the implementation of integrated youth services hubs, development of a National Suicide Action Plan, launching 9-8-8 – the suicide prevention crisis line and to address the overdose crisis.
Our government is providing $25B over 10 years through tailored bilateral agreements to provinces and territories for four shared health priorities, with mental health and substance use supports addressed by or integrated within them.
Provinces and territories are free to allocate the funding according to their local needs and circumstances.
The goal is to promote a compassionate and patient- centered approach so that Canadians can access the full continuum of mental health and substance use supports they need for their health care.
As part of the historic federal investments in health care in 2023, provinces and territories will collect and report on three headline indicators for mental health and substance use services:
o Median wait times for community mental health and substance use;
o Percentage of youth aged 12-25 with access to integrated youth services for mental health and substance use; and,
o Percentage of Canadians with a mental disorder who have unmet mental health care needs.
These indicators will allow better measurement of progress in increasing access to needed services.



Additional Information:

Budget 2023 confirmed the Government of Canada’s commitment to improve health care in Canada through additional investments in health care of close to $200 billion over ten years, of which $25B will flow to provinces and territories through tailored bilateral agreements. These bilateral agreements will support progress on four shared priorities to improve access to health care, with mental health addressed by or included within all four priorities.
This investment builds on previous federal commitments for mental health and substance use, including an investment of $5 billion over ten years in Budget 2017 to provinces and territories to improve access to mental health and substance use services, coupled with agreement by federal, provincial and territorial Health Ministers on the importance of promoting mental wellness and addressing gaps in mental health and substance use services and supports, including for children and youth.
Since then, the federal government has been working with provinces/territories, Indigenous communities, and stakeholders to help develop and expand Integrated Youth Services, which provide a “one-stop shop” of supports in the community for youth. In addition, a “network of networks” as well as a national data framework and infrastructure are being developed.
The federal government launched Wellness Together Canada (WTC) portal in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the companion app, PocketWell, in 2022. WTC has provided free, 24/7 supports to Canadians for mild to moderate mental health and substance use issues.
Through engagement with partners including provinces and territories, the federal government is leading the development of a National Suicide Prevention Action Plan which builds on the existing Federal Framework for Suicide Prevention. The Plan will strengthen a collective approach and identify key areas for action that will have the greatest impact in reducing suicide rates in Canada.
A key pan-Canadian initiative aimed at improved access to effective suicide prevention services is the launch of 9-8-8 in November 2023, an easy to remember, three-digit number for suicide prevention and emotional distress. Stakeholders from a range of sectors, including provinces and territories, Indigenous partners, public safety officials, and people with lived experience have been and continue to be engaged as implementation progresses.
The government has also invested more than $1 billion to directly address the overdose crisis and toxic illegal drug supply.
Budget 2023 provided a total of $359.2 million over five years to support a renewed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy. The renewed strategy will continue to address both public health and public safety and guide the Government's work to save lives and protect the health of Canadians.