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Disability Tax Credit Program : CMA Submission to the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (House of Commons)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1972
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities to discuss issues related to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). This tax measure, which is recognition by the federal government that persons with a severe disability may be affected by having reduced incomes, increased expenses or both, compared to those who are not disabled i, helps to account for the intangible costs associated with a severe and prolonged impairment. It also takes into account disability-related expenses that are not listed in the medical expense deduction or which are excluded by the 3% threshold in the Medical Expense Tax Credit. Physicians are a key point of contact for applicants of the DTC and, given the way the program is structured, a vital participant in its administration. It is for these reasons that we come before you today to address specific concerns related to the program’s performance. In addition, we would like to discuss the broader issue of developing a coherent set of tax policies in support of health and social policy. The Integration of Tax Policy with Health Policy and Social Policy The federal government, through a variety of policy levers such as taxation, spending, regulation and information, has played a key role in the development of our health care and social systems. To date however, discussion about the federal role in these areas has centered largely on federal transfers to the provinces and territories and the Canada Health Act. However, in looking at how to renew Canada’s health and social programs, we should not limit ourselves to these traditional instruments. Today we have a health system that is facing a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. These pressures range from an aging and more demanding population in terms of the specialty care services and technology they will seek; the cry for expanding the scope of medicare coverage to include homecare and pharmacare; and a shortage of health personnel. These are only some of the more immediate reasons alternative avenues of funding health care, and thus ensuring the health and well-being of our citizens, must be explored. In our pre-budget consultation document to the Standing Committee on Finance ii, the CMA recommended that the federal government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to synchronize tax policy with health policy. Such a review has not been undertaken in over 25 years since the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1966 (Carter Commission). The CMA is echoing its call for a National Task Force to develop new and innovative ways to synchronize tax policy with health policy and social policy. A study of this nature would look at all aspects of the taxation system, including the personal income tax system, in which the DTC is a component. The remainder of our brief addresses issues specific to the DTC. Physician Involvement in the DTC Program The CMA has in the past provided input with respect to the DTC program. Our working relationship on the DTC program with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has been issue-specific, time-limited and constructive. Our first substantive contact in regard to the DTC program was in 1993 when the CMA provided Revenue Canada with a brief review of the program and the T2201form. It is interesting to note what our observations were in 1993 with regard to this program because many of them still hold true today. Here are just some of the issues raised by the CMA in 1993 during our initial review of the program: * The tax credit program may not address the needs of the disabled, it is too hit and miss. The DTC program should be evaluated in a comprehensive way to measure its overall effectiveness in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. * The program should be called the “Severe Disability Tax Credit Program” – or something equivalent to indicate that not everyone with a disability is eligible. * The program puts physicians in a potential conflict with patients—the responsibility of the physician to advocate for the patient vs. gate-keeper need for Revenue Canada. The physician role should be to attest to legitimate claims on the patients’ behalf. * Revenue Canada should clarify the multiplicity of programs. There are numerous different federal programs and all appear to have varying processes and forms. These overlapping efforts are difficult for patients and professionals. * A major education effort for potential claimants, tax advisers and physicians should be introduced. * A suitable evaluation of claimant and medical components of the process should be undertaken. The CMA does not have a standardized consultative relationship with the CCRA in regard to this program. An example of this spotty relationship is the recent letter sent by the CCRA Minister asking current DTC recipients to re-qualify for the credit. The CMA was not advised or consulted about this letter. If we had been advised we would have highlighted the financial and time implications of sending 75 to 100 thousand individuals to their family physician for re-certification. We also would have worked with the CCRA on alternative options for updating DTC records. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, but we can learn from it. This clearly speaks to the need to establish open and ongoing dialogue between our two organizations. Policy Measure: The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patients’ advocacy groups. We would now like to draw the Sub-committee’s attention to three areas that, at present, negatively impact on the medical profession participation in the program, namely program integrity, program standardization (e.g., consistency in terminology and out-of-pocket costs faced by persons with disabilities) and tax advisor referrals to health care providers. Program Integrity A primary concern and irritation for physicians working with this program is that it puts an undue strain on the patient-physician relationship. This strain may also have another possible side effect, a failure in the integrity of the DTC program process. Under the current structure of the DTC program, physicians evaluate the patient, provide this evaluation back to the patient and then ask the patient for remuneration. This process is problematic for two reasons. First, since the patient will receive the form back immediately following the evaluation, physicians might receive the blame for denying their patient the tax credit—not the DTC program adjudicators. Second, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he or she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. For the integrity of the DTC program, physicians need to be free to reach independent assessment of the patient’s condition. However, due to the pressure placed by this program on the patient-physician relationship, the physician’s moral and legal obligation to provide an objective assessment may conflict with the physician’s ethical duty to “Consider first the well-being of the patient. There is a solution to this problem it’s a model already in use by government, the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Program. Under the CPP Disability Program, the evaluation from the physician is not given to the patient but, it is sent to the government and the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Under this system, the integrity of patient-physician relationship is maintained and the integrity of the program is not compromised. Policy Measure: The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. Fairness and Equity The federal government has several programs for people with disabilities. Some deal with income security (e.g., Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits), some with employment issues (e.g., Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities), and some through tax measures (e.g., Disability Tax Credit). These government transfers and tax benefits help to provide the means for persons with disabilities to become active members in Canadian society. However, these programs are not consistent in terms of their terminology, eligibility criteria, reimbursement protocols, benefits, etc. CMA recommends that standards of fairness and equity be applied across federal disability benefit programs, particularly in two areas: the definition of the concept of “disability”, and standards for remuneration to the physician. These are discussed in greater detail below. 1) Defining “disability” One of the problems with assessing disability is that the concept itself is difficult to define. In most standard definitions the word “disability” is defined in very general and subjective terms. One widely used definition comes from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) which defines disability as “any restriction or inability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.” The DTC and other disability program application forms do not use a standard definition of “disability”. In addition to the inconsistency in terminology, the criteria for qualification for these programs differ because they are targeted to meet the different needs of those persons with disabilities. To qualify for DTC, a disability must be “prolonged” (over a period of at least 12 months) and “severe” i.e. “markedly (restrict) any of the basic activities of daily living” which are defined. Though CPP criteria use the same words “severe” and “prolonged” they are defined differently (i.e., “severe” means “prevents applicant from working regularly at any job” and “prolonged” means “long term or may result in death”). Other programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Canada, have entirely different criteria. This is confusing for physicians, patients and others (e.g., tax preparers/advisors) involved in the application process. This can lead to physicians spending more time than is necessary completing the form because of the need to verify terms. As a result if the terms, criteria and the information about the programs are not as clear as possible this could result in errors on the part of physicians when completing the forms. This could then inadvertently disadvantage those who, in fact, qualify for benefits. Policy Measures: The CMA would like to see some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not mean that eligibility criteria must become uniform. In addition, the CMA would like to see the development of a comprehensive information package for health care providers that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 2) Remuneration The remuneration for assessment and form completion is another area where standardization among the various government programs would eliminate the difficulties that some individuals with disabilities currently face. For example, applicants who present the DTC Certificate Form T2201 to their physicians must bear any costs associated with its completion out of their own pockets. On the other hand, if an individual is applying to the CPP Disability Program, the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Assessing a patient’s disabilities is a complex and time-consuming endeavour on the part of any health professional. Our members tell us that the DTC Certificate Form T2201 can take as much time and effort to complete as the information requested for CPP Disability Program forms depending, of course, on the patient and the nature of the disability. In spite of this fact, some programs acknowledge the time and expertise needed to conduct a proper assessment while other programs do not. Although physicians have the option of approaching the applicant for remuneration for the completion of the DTC form, they are reluctant to do so because these individuals are usually of limited means and in very complex cases, the cost for a physician’s time for completing the DTC Form T2201 can reach as much as $150. In addition, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he/she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. Synchronizing funding between all programs would be of substantial benefit to all persons with disabilities, those professionals completing the forms and the programs’ administrators. Policy Measure: We strongly urge the federal government to place disability tax credit programs on the same footing when it comes to reimbursement of the examining health care provider. Tax Advisor Referrals With the complexity of the income tax system today, many individuals seek out the assistance of professional tax advisors to ensure the forms are properly completed and they have received all the benefits they are entitled to. Tax advisors will very often refer individuals to health professionals so that they can be assessed for potential eligibility for the DTC. The intention of the tax advisors may be laudable, but often, inappropriate referrals are made to health professionals. This not only wastes the valuable time of health care professionals, already in short supply, but may create unrealistic expectations on the part of the patient seeking the tax credit. The first principle of the CMA’s Code of Ethics is “consider first the well-being of the patient.” One of the key roles of the physician is to act as a patient’s advocate and support within the health care system. The DTC application form makes the physician a mediator between the patient and a third party with whom the patient is applying for financial support. This “policing” role can place a strain on the physician-patient relationship – particularly if the patient is denied a disability tax credit as a result a third-party adjudicator’s interpretation of the physician’s recommendations contained within the medical report. Physicians and other health professionals are not only left with having to tell the patient that they are not eligible but in addition advising the patient that there may be a personal financial cost for the physician providing this assessment. Policy Measure: Better preparation of tax advisors would be a benefit to both patients and their health care providers. The CMA would like CCRA to develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax preparers and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. This would provide some guidance as to whether it is worth the time, effort and expense to see a health professional for a professional assessment. As raised in a previous meeting with CCRA, the CMA is once again making available a physician representative to accompany DTC representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies, prior to each tax season, to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and initial assessment, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. Conclusion The DTC is a deserving benefit to those Canadians living with a disability. However, there needs to be some standardization among the various programs to ensure that they are effective and meet their stated purpose. Namely, the CMA would like to make the following suggestions: 1. The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patient advocacy groups. 2. The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. 3. That there be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not circumvent differences in eligibility criteria. 4. That a comprehensive information package be developed, for health care providers, that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 5. That the federal government applies these social programs on the same footing when it comes to their funding and administration. 6. That CCRA develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax advisors and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. 7. That CCRA employ health care providers to accompany CCRA representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and personal assessment of disability, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. These recommendations would certainly be helpful to all involved - the patient, health care providers and the programs’ administrators, in the short term. However what would be truly beneficial in the longer term would be an overall review of the taxation system from a health care perspective. This could provide tangible benefits not only for persons with disabilities but for all Canadians as well as demonstrating the federal government’s leadership towards ensuring the health and well being of our population. i Health Canada, The Role for the Tax System in Advancing the Health Agenda, Applied Research and Analysis Directorate, Analysis and Connectivity Branch, September 21, 2001 ii Canadian Medical Association, Securing Our Future… Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow”, Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations, November 1, 2001.
Documents
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Letter to the International Joint Commission on the 2004 Progress Report addressing air quality

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1952
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-02-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-02-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
On behalf of Canada’s physicians, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) would like to take this opportunity to provide comments to the International Joint Commission on the 2004 Progress Report addressing air quality. The Association, first founded in 1867, currently represents more than 59,000 physicians across the country. Our mission includes advocating for the highest standard of health and care for all Canadians and we are committed to activities that will result in healthy public policy which support health and the environment. The environment, as a determinant of health, is a major concern for the general public as well as health care providers. Air pollution affects the health of all Canadians, but particularly children, the elderly and those with respiratory and cardiac conditions. Poor air quality can provoke devastating health effects. Every day physicians come face to face with the reality of an unhealthy environment and its effects on our patients. The impact can be seen in terms of increased frequency of symptoms, medication use, physician visits, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths. Canadians and Americans breathe the same air, drink the same water, and share a common responsibility to provide future generations with a healthy environment. This is why the Canada-U.S. agreement to address and resolve environmental issues is so important. The U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement established a formal and flexible method of addressing trans-boundary air pollution and laid the groundwork for cooperation between the United States and Canada on very important air quality issues. Under the Air Quality Agreement of 1991, both countries have made progress in coordinating and implementing their acid rain control programs and have focused activities on ground level ozone since 2000. The improvements, as described in the 2004 Progress Report are commendable. But while many of the parties’ emission reduction commitments are on-track, dangerous air pollution continues to blow both ways across our borders. This suggests that the measures included in this agreement are not sufficient to ensure that Canadians have clean air to breathe. In fact, we believe that future evaluations should describe air quality improvement as the outcome of interest, in addition to cataloguing emission reduction initiatives, as is done in the 2004 Progress Report. The 2004 Progress Report, prepared by Environment Canada and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is the seventh biennial report compiled under the 1991 United States-Canada Air Quality Agreement. Ground level ozone, a primary component of smog, directly contributes to air quality and health. The commitment to reduce ground level ozone under the 2000 Agreement has the potential to improve air quality and the quality of life of literally millions of people. As indicated in the Progress Report 2004, Canada is “on track to implement all of its commitments for vehicles, engines and fuels” in order to reduce ground level ozone. However, the stationary emissions of NOx remain above target levels. An aggressive strategy to reduce NOx and VOC to lessen smog, and the adverse health impact on Canadians and Americans is urgently required. Smog and climate change are not distinct problems. In fact, a large proportion of the smog pollutants that cause serious cardiac and respiratory problems in Canada are emitted from the same tailpipes and industrial smokestacks as the greenhouse gases, which the Kyoto agreement aims to reduce. Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Accord provides an opportunity to significantly reduce smog and achieve cleaner air for all Canadians to breathe. The purchasing of emission credits from foreign countries to make up for a shortfall in the reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions Canada agreed to in the Kyoto accord is clearly short-term thinking that does not address the long term goals outlined in the accord. Climate change measures under the Accord will yield additional benefits through improved local and regional air quality. But more can and needs to be done. Canada must bring air pollution down to safe levels and to cut greenhouse gas emissions to halt climate change. For these reasons, CMA recommended that the Prime Minister commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfies Canada’s international commitments while maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog–reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. Canada’s physicians are concerned about the pollutants that are affecting the health of Canadians, and believe that there should be appropriate mechanisms to warn those who are vulnerable and at risk, so that they can act to protect themselves from contaminants in the air, water, or food. We have called on the government of Canada to establish a national Air Quality Index so that real-time air quality information and predictive forecasting is made available to all Canadians. Health-based reporting about pollutants is a way to allow Canadians to partner in their own health protection, while such pollutants are being addressed by policies aimed at producing cleaner air. Environment Canada and Health Canada have long been developing a health-based Air Quality Index, which would incorporate the most recent health science and make air quality forecasts and current ambient conditions available across the nation. We contend this is a key initiative and we urge this work be expedited. CMA reaffirms our support for the Kyoto protocol and in the best interest of Canadians, urges the government to establish a national Air Quality Index. There is a fundamental role for governments in preventing and controlling smog and poor air quality through healthy public policy and regulations. There remains much work to be done. CMA’s vision of a healthy population for Canada underpins our commitment to advocate for clean air. I would like to thank you and the IJC for your continued commitment to improving air quality for Canadians and Americans. It is through efforts like this, that our mutual goal for a clean, healthy and safe environment may be realized. We look forward to your next report demonstrating even further gains in achieving high air quality. Yours truly, Albert J. Schumacher, MD President AJS/jns
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Mental Health, Mental Illness & Addiction : CMA Submission to the Standing Committee on Social affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1950
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-04-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-04-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide input to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s study of mental health, mental illness and addiction in Canada. The Committee is to be commended for their commitment to the examination of the state of mental health services and addiction treatment in Canada. The Interim Report Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction: Overview of Policies and Programs in Canada is a most comprehensive and thorough study. It highlights and reinforces the myriad of players, programs and services as well as the scope and breadth of concerns related to mental health/mental illness care. The Issues and Options paper cogently outlines all the major issues facing mental health, mental illness and addiction care today and provides a platform to stimulate an important public debate on the direction that should be taken to address mental health reform in Canada. The CMA was pleased to appear before the Committee during its deliberations in March of 2004 to speak to the issues facing mental health and mental illness care and put forward recommendations for action by the federal government. The CMA recommended: * developing legislative or regulatory amendments to ensure that psychiatric hospitals are subject to the five program criteria and the conditions of the Canada Health Act, * adjusting the Canada Health Transfer to provide net new federal cash for these additional insured services, * re-establishing an adequately resourced federal unit focussed on mental health, mental illness and addiction, * reviewing federal policies and programs to ensure that mental illness is on par, in terms of benefits, with other chronic diseases and disabilities, * mounting a national public awareness strategy to address the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction. The physicians of Canada continue to support these recommendations. While the Committee has asked for input on a number of important issues in its Issues and Options paper, CMA will focus on the role of the federal government in three areas: * national leadership and intergovernmental collaboration, * accessibility, * accountability. We understand that the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society will, in their submissions to the Standing Committee, address specific issues of concern to the medical profession in the areas of primary care, child and adolescent mental health and mental illness services, and psychiatric care. The CMA supports the positions of these national specialty organizations. THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The economic burden of mental health problems is estimated, at a minimum, at $14.4 billion annually. 1 Mental illness and addiction affects one in five Canadians during their lifetime. According to a 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey, 2.6 million Canadians over the age of 15 reported symptoms consistent with mental illness during the past year. Mental illness impacts people in the prime of their life. Estimates from 1998 indicates that 24% of all deaths among those aged 15-24 and 16% of all deaths among those aged 25- 44 are from suicide 2. In contrast, the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that tragically, resulted in 483 cases and 44 deaths with an estimated economic impact in the Greater Toronto Area of 2 billion dollars served as the ‘wake-up call’ that galvanized the federal government into paying attention to public health in Canada. In the aftermath of SARS, the federal government appointed a Minister of State for Public Health, established the Public Health Agency of Canada and selected a Chief Public Health Officer for Canada. Nine hundred and sixty five million dollars has been invested by the federal government in public health in the two federal budgets following SARS and a new spirit of federal-provincial-territorial cooperation on public health issues has been spawned. The evidence of the enormous burden that mental illness and addiction places on Canadian society has been a clarion call to many concerned stakeholder organizations across the country to mobilize and search for solutions. It is astounding that the federal government has not heard the call. And it is hard to imagine just what more could constitute a ‘wake-up call’ for mental health care. In fact the federal government falls woefully short of fulfilling its responsibilities to the people of Canada. The Interim report of the Committee correctly outlines the state of fragmentation and gaps in services to those specific populations under direct federal jurisdiction. It also notes the ‘apparent ambivalence’ over the years by the federal government about the place of mental health services within publicly funded health care. This ambivalent approach also spills over to the broad national policies and programs of the federal government that can impact those suffering from mental illness, addiction or poor mental health. The federal government has systematically excluded mental health services since the earliest days of Medicare. Mental illness has been treated like a second class disease with little dedicated federal funding, and with programs and services not subject to national criteria or conditions as are set out in the Canada Health Act. In fact, the federal government could be seen as moving in reverse with the downgrading of mental health resources within Health Canada through the 1980s and 1990s. Leadership The CMA firmly believes that strong federal leadership is required to address the sometimes invisible epidemic of mental health problems and addiction in Canada.The government must lead by example and begin by ‘cleaning up its own backyard’ in terms of its direct role as service provider to those Canadians under its jurisdiction. It should take a ‘whole of government’ approach that recognizes the interplay of health services, education, housing, income, community and the justice system on mental health and mental illness care. Further, the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that there is equitable access to necessary services and supports across the county. This will require a strong degree of cooperation and collaboration among provinces and territories and the federal government. The federal, provincial and territorial governments must come together to develop a national action plan on mental health, mental illness and addiction modeled on the framework developed by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health in 2000. The CMA has noted the options put forward to elevate mental health, mental illness and addiction in government priorities: A Canada Mental Health Act or a Minister of State for mental health, mental illness and addiction. We continue to believe that an adequately resourced, dedicated federal centre focussed on mental health, mental illness and addiction must be established within Health Canada. This will ensure that mental health, mental illness and addiction are not seen as separate from the health care system but an integral component of acute care, chronic care and public health services. A centre with dedicated funding and leadership at the Associate Deputy Minister level is required to signal the intent of the government to seriously address mental health, mental illness and addiction in terms of both its direct and indirect roles. This centre must also have the authority to coordinate across all federal departments and lead F/P/T collaborations on mental health, mental illness and addiction. The responsibility of the provinces and territories for the delivery of services for mental illness and addiction within their jurisdictions is unquestioned. But, as CMA has noted in relation to the acute care and public health systems, we have a concern with the disparity of these services across the country. We believe that the federal government must take a lead role, working with the provinces and territories, in establishing mental health goals, standards for service delivery, disseminating best practices, coordinating surveillance and research, undertaking human resource planning and reducing stigma. It is unfortunate that the Council of Deputy Ministers of Health withdrew its support of the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health in 1990. The lack of a credible and resourced F/P/T forum for information sharing, planning and policy formation has impeded inter-provincial cooperation and collaboration for over a decade. F/P/T collaboration is essential to ensure adequacy of services in all parts of the country and end the piecemeal approach to mental illness and addiction. It would also encourage pan Canadian research and knowledge transfer. The CMA therefore recommends: 1. That the federal government create and adequately resource a Centre for Mental Health within Health Canada led by an Associate Deputy Minister with a mandate to initiate and coordinate activity across all federal departments to address the federal government’s responsibilities to specific populations under its direct jurisdiction, to oversee national policies and programs that impact on mental health, mental illness and addiction and to support intergovernmental collaboration. 2. That the federal government re-establish and adequately resource the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health with a broader mandate to encompass mental health, mental illness and addiction. 3. That the federal government work with the provinces, territories and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health to establish a Pan Canadian Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Network to develop a national mental health strategy, mental health goals and action plan; and serve as a forum for inter-provincial cooperation and collaboration on mental health, mental illness and addiction. Accessibility Accessibility leads the way as the number one concern regarding the health care system for patients and their families. This concern is in no way lessened when we look at access to mental health and addiction services and programs. The CMA has long identified accessibility as an essential issue that must be addressed to improve the health care system. In recent years, public concern over timely access has been growing. Recent polling for the CMA has shown that a significant majority of Canadians have suffered increased pain and anxiety while waiting for health care services. 3 The same polling clearly demonstrated that the vast majority of Canadians attributed long waits for health care services to a lack of available health providers and infrastructure. More recently, another opinion poll found that Canadians gave the health care system an overall grade of “C” in terms of their confidence that the system will provide the same level and quality of service to future generations. 4 The 2003 Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada report released by the Fraser Institute included a psychiatry waiting list survey which revealed that wait times from referral by a GP ranges from a Canadian average of 8.5 weeks to 20 weeks in New Brunswick. Patients then face a further delay as they wait for appropriate treatment after they have been seen by the specialist. This wait can be anywhere from 4 weeks to 19 weeks depending on the treatment or program. 5 The 2004 National Physician Survey, a collaboration between the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, found that 65.6% of physicians rated accessibility to psychiatrists as fair or poor. 6 These statistics do not reflect those patients that do not make it on to lengthy waiting lists where access is effectively denied. In September 2004 the CMA released a national plan of action to address issues of accessibility, availability and sustainability across the health system 7 . Better Access Better Health lays out a number of recommendations designed to ensure that access exists at times of need, and to improve system capacity and the sustainability of the system. While Better Access Better Health speaks to the health care system writ large, the provision of mental health services and addiction treatment clearly falls under this umbrella. Specific recommendations detailed in the plan of action for pan-Canadian wait-time benchmarks, a health human resource reinvestment fund, expanding the continuum of care and an increase in federal “core’ funding commitments would all have a positive impact on the accessibility of mental health and addiction services. The review of mental health policies and programs in select countries (Report 2 of the Interim Report) is striking for the similarity of problems facing mental health care. In each of the four countries studied there is concern for the adequacy of resources as well as recognition of the need to coordinate and integrate service delivery. The CMA agrees with the Committee’s commentary that: “The means for achieving these objectives that stands out from our survey of four countries is to set actionable targets that engage the entire mental health community, and to establish measurable criteria for the ongoing monitoring of reform efforts. Comprehensive human resource planning in the mental health field, as well as adequate funding for research and its dissemination are also suggested as key elements of a national strategy to foster mental health and treat mental illness.” CMA strongly supports setting national standards and targets with regard to mental health services and addiction treatment, but it must be understood that standards and targets can not be established until we have a clear and accurate picture of the current situation in Canada. Pan-Canadian research is needed to determine the availability of services across the country. Surveillance of mental illness risk factors, outcomes and services is essential to guide appropriate development and delivery of programs. Research is also needed to determine ways of integrating the delivery of mental health services between institutional and community settings. The Health Transition Fund supported 24 projects between 1997 and 2001 that made a substantial contribution toward a practical knowledge base in mental health policy and practice. The 2000 Primary Health Care Transition Fund is also supporting projects in the mental health field. For those projects that are due to be completed in 2006, they should be encouraged to put in place a prospective evaluation framework to determine the feasibility and scalability of collaborative care initiatives. As noted in Better Access Better Health availability is first and foremost about the people who provide quality care and about the tools and infrastructure they need to provide it. The shortage of family practitioners, specialists, nurses, psychologists and other health care providers within the publicly funded health care system is certainly an impediment to timely access to care. A health human resources strategy for mental health, mental illness and addiction is a first step in finding a solution to the chronic shortage of health professionals. The CMA therefore recommends: 4. That the federal government, through the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, undertake a program of surveillance and research to determine actual availability of services for mental health, mental illness and addiction across the country. 5. That the federal government in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, health care providers and patients/clients establish national standards and targets for access to services. 6. That the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction and the Institute of Health Services and Policy Research within Canadian Institutes of Health Research establish a joint competition for research on ways of integrating the delivery of mental health services between institutions and community settings. 7. That the federal government undertake an evaluation of those Health Transition Fund and Primary Health Care Transition Fund projects in the mental health, mental illness and addiction field to determine the feasibility and scalability of collaborative care initiatives. 8. That the federal government work with the provinces and territories to develop a health human resource strategy for the field of mental health, mental illness and addiction. Accountability In its presentation to the Committee in March of 2004, CMA recommended that the federal government make the legislative and/or regulatory amendments necessary to ensure that psychiatric hospital services are subject to the criteria and conditions of the Canada Health Act. This would accomplish two objectives. It would signal the federal government’s serious intent to address the historical imbalance in the treatment of mental health and illness care while at the same time increase the accountability of these institutions and services to the values espoused in the Canada Health Act. This would be a very positive step, but we must also develop accountability mechanisms that can measure the quality and effectiveness of the mental health services provided. Since 2000, First Ministers and their governments have committed to reporting on numerous comparable indicators on health status, health outcomes and quality of services. In September 2002, all 14 jurisdictions including the federal government, released reports covering some 67 comparable indicators. In November 2004, these governments released their second report covering 18 indicators with a focus on health system performance including primary health care and homecare. Unfortunately, mental illness--despite its magnitude--has received little attention in these reports. Of the now 70 indicators that have been developed, only 2 directly address mental illness (potential years of life lost due to suicide and prevalence of depression). Furthermore, no performance indicators related to mental health outcomes or wait times for mental health services have been included in these reports. This is one more example of the oversight of mental illness related issues and the vicious circle that exists since few indicators makes it difficult to present the case for greater attention. The lack of information on availability of services, wait times and health outcomes for mental health services compromises governments’ ability to establish a funding framework to allocate funding equitably. Research that will reveal gaps in service delivery, and the establishment of targets should allow governments to better calculate sustainable funding levels needed to build capacity in the mental health, mental illness and addiction fields. As important as it is to ensure that mental health and addiction services within the health system are available, accessible and adequately resourced we must not lose sight of the fact that to effectively address mental health, mental illness and addiction issues services from a broad range of government sectors are required. Therefore the proposed Associate Deputy Minister for Mental Health must be accountable to ensure collaboration across sectors within the federal government. As in public health in general, a clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the various levels and sectors of government and health providers involved in the provision of mental health, mental illness and addiction services would allow for greater accountability. The CMA therefore recommends: 9. That performance indicators for mental health services and support, based on the work of the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health, are incorporated in the federal, provincial and territorial reporting of comparable indicators on health status, health outcomes and quality of services called for in the 2003 First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal. 10. The federal, provincial and territorial governments establish resource targets based on national standards for access to services and minimum wait times to determine and commit to sustainable funding levels. 11. That the Health Council of Canada report on the performance of the mental health, mental illness and addiction system. CONCLUSION The CMA welcomes the spotlight that the Committee has shone on the mental health, mental illness and addiction system in Canada and has been pleased to provide input on behalf of the physicians of Canada. The neglect of those impacted by mental illness and addiction must not be allowed to continue. It is unconscionable that millions of Canadians do not have access to the programs, treatments or supports that would ease their suffering. The federal government must recognize its responsibility towards these Canadians, embrace its leadership role and ensure that the mental health, mental illness and addiction system is placed on an equal footing within the health care system in Canada. Physicians are an integral part of the mental health, mental illness and addiction field. We are eager to work with governments and other concerned stakeholders to bring to fruition a national mental health strategy with mental health goals and an associated action plan that can effectively address the concerns of today and prepare the mental health, mental illness and addiction system for the future. CMA recommendations on Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction 1. That the federal government create and adequately resource a Centre for Mental Health within Health Canada led by an Associate Deputy Minister with a mandate to initiate and coordinate activity across all federal departments to address the federal government’s responsibilities to specific populations under its direct jurisdiction, to oversee national policies and programs that impact on mental health, mental illness and addiction, and to support intergovernmental collaboration. 2. That the federal government re-establish and adequately resource the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health with a broader mandate to encompass mental health, mental illness and addiction. 3. That the federal government work with the provinces, territories and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health to establish a Pan Canadian Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Network to develop a national mental health strategy, mental health goals and action plan; and serve as a forum for inter-provincial cooperation and collaboration on mental health, mental illness and addiction. 4. That the federal government, through the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, undertake a program of surveillance and research to determine actual availability of services for mental health, mental illness and addiction across the country. 5. That the federal government in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, health care providers and patients/clients establish national standards and targets for access to services. 6. That the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction and the Institute of Health Services and Policy Research within Canadian Institutes of Health Research establish a joint competition for research on ways of integrating the delivery of mental health services between institutions and community settings. 7. That the federal government undertakes an evaluation of those Health Transition Fund and Primary Health Care Transition Fund projects in the mental health, mental illness and addiction field to determine the feasibility and scalability of collaborative care initiatives. 8. That the federal government works with the provinces and territories to develop a health human resource strategy for the field of mental health, mental illness and addiction. 9. That performance indicators for mental health services and support, based on the work of the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health, are incorporated in the federal, provincial and territorial reporting of comparable indicators on health status, health outcomes and quality of services called for in the 2003 First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal. 10. The federal, provincial and territorial governments establish resource targets based on national standards for access to services and minimum wait times to determine and commit to sustainable funding levels. 11. That the Health Council of Canada report on the performance of the mental health, mental illness and addiction system. 1 Stephens T and Joubert N, The Economic Burden of Mental Health Problems in Canada, Chronic Disease in Canada, 2001:22 (1) 18-23. 2 Health Canada. A Report on Mental Illnesses in Canada. Ottawa, Canada 2002. 3 Health Care Access and Canadians, Ipsos-Reid for the CMA, 2004. 4 2004 National Report Card on the Sustainability of Health Care, Ipsos-Reid for the CMA, 2004. 5 Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada (13th edition), Critical Issues Bulletin, The Fraser Institute, October 2003. 6 National Physician Survey, Canadian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, College of Family Physicians of Canada, 2004, (http://www.cfpc.ca/nps/English/home.asp), accessed April 6, 2005. 7 Better Access Better Health: Accessible, Available and Sustainable Health Care For Patients, CMA September 2004 , attached as Appendix I.
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Notes for an address by Dr. Eugene Bereza, Chair, Committee on Ethics, Canadian Medical Association : Bill C-13 - An act respecting assisted human reproduction : Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1963
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2002-11-20
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Ottawa, Ontario November 20, 2002 BILL C-13 - AN ACT RESPECTING ASSISTED HUMAN REPRODUCTION Madame Chair and Members of the Committee: My name is Dr. Eugene Bereza. I am a physician and clinical ethicist at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and Chair of the Canadian Medical Association Committee on Ethics. I am here today representing our members, more than 54,000 physicians from across Canada. I also wish to speak as a advocate for our patients, especially those affected by infertility and those who are or will suffer from diseases for which medical science is searching for cures. I am accompanied today by Dr. John Williams, our Director of Ethics. You will recall that we appeared before this Committee on October 23, 2001 in company with representatives from eight other national health provider and scientific organizations to present our views on draft legislation on assisted human reproduction. Although we were pleased that your December 2001 report recommended the establishment of an assisted reproduction regulatory body outside the Department of Health, we were disappointed that you did not find favour with other recommendations we put forward. The government responded to your report with Bill C-56, now Bill C-13. It is this bill that we are here to address today. Although there are many details in the bill on which we would like either clarification or changes, we intend to focus our remarks on the issue that we consider of greatest importance for our patient’s wellfare and the practice of medicine. That issue is the use of the criminal power to deal with medical and scientific activities. The Standing Committee Report and Bill C-13 In your December 2001 report, you acknowledged our position on this issue: “Some witnesses recommended the elimination of the prohibited activities category altogether. Citing the benefits of regulatory flexibility, they felt that all activities should come under the controlled activity category, including the more reprehensible activities like reproductive cloning for which licences, arguably, would never be allowed under the regulations” (page 9). However, you rejected this view on the grounds that “a licence-related prohibition of this sort would not carry the same weight or degree of social censure as the statutory prohibition…. An outright statutory ban signals more clearly that certain activities are either unsafe or socially unacceptable. The use of the statutory ban also signals that these activities are of such concern to Canadians that their status as a prohibited activity may not be altered except with the approval of Parliament” (page 9). Bill C-13 reflects your views on this matter. We recognize your good faith in proposing and defending this position but we are convinced that its potential for harm outweighs its potential benefits. And so we are pleased to have this opportunity to reiterate the reason why the CMA believes that Bill C-13 will adversely affect the patient-physician relationship and the advance of medical science. Need to Change Bill C-13 As you know, our position on this matter is supported by legal scholars such as Patrick Healy, McGill University Faculty of Law, Tim Caulfield, Director of the University of Alberta Health Law Institute, and Bartha Knoppers, Université de Montréal Centre de Recherche en Droit Publique. In essence, our position is that the criminal law is a blunt instrument and very difficult to change and is therefore appropriate for activities whose status is unlikely to change over time, such as murder and theft, rather than medical and scientific activities that are constantly developing. The latter are better left to a representative regulatory body to determine if and when changes in health and safety considerations and public attitudes and values might justify allowing certain formerly prohibited activities to take place under specific conditions. Bill C-13 begins with the statement: “This enactment prohibits assisted reproduction procedures that are considered to be ethically unacceptable.” This echoes the conclusions in your report. However, as the transcripts of your hearings demonstrate, many Canadians, especially those who are infertile, do not consider some or all of these procedures to be ethically unacceptable. As a matter of public policy, should Canadians who hold this view be denied access to medical treatment for infertility because others consider such treatments to be ethically unacceptable? Should patients who suffer from conditions for which research that is forbidden in Bill C-13 might lead to a cure be denied that opportunity? We question whether criminal prohibitions are appropriate for dealing with activities on which there is considerable ethical disagreement among Canadians. In Canada legislators have been justifiably reluctant to use the criminal law to deal with medical and scientific issues such as abortion, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and the conduct of medical research. Why is an exception being made for assisted reproduction? What sort of precedent will this set for other controversial bioethical issues? We are also concerned about the bill’s penalties for infractions: jail terms up to 10 years and fines up to $500,000. These are disproportionate to the penalties for crimes that injure persons or property and, as such, will create a climate of undue fear and excessive caution for physicians and scientists working in this area, such that they will avoid any activity that is potentially covered by the bill, even to the detriment of patient care. Given the rapid advance of science and medical practice and the difficulty of anticipating new developments, it will be difficult to adjust the law to deal with new applications of prohibited activities that may be ethically acceptable. An Alternate Solution The CMA has stated repeatedly that we are not opposed to the prohibition of certain assisted human reproduction activities. Instead of instituting criminal prohibitions within the legislation, we remain convinced that an independent body on an ongoing basis should determine the activities that are permissible or prohibited on the basis of up-to-date scientific research, public input and ethical review. This can be accomplished very easily in Bill C-13 by moving the procedures listed under “Prohibited Activities” (sections 5-9) to “Controlled Activities” and adding the words “except in accordance with the regulations and a licence” to each of the provisions in sections 5-9. Consistent with this recommendation we consider that the regulatory agency should be established as soon as possible and be given as much authority as possible over the matters that Bill C-13, section 65, reserves to regulations of Governor in Council. We hope that the agency will build upon the experience and expertise of existing organizations and structures in the field of assisted reproduction that deal with practice standards, education, certification and accreditation. Conclusion To summarize, we strongly support government efforts to regulate assisted human reproduction and related activities, including the prohibition of certain practices either temporarily or permanently. However, like others who have appeared before this Committee, we do not believe that criminalizing the medical and scientific activities named in the bill is an appropriate way to achieve those objectives. We consider that the objectives could be as well achieved by far less drastic means than criminalization and, moreover, that criminalization would create major obstacles to legitimate medical and scientific progress in the treatment of infertility. We recommend that the proposed agency be empowered to regulate these practices and that the criminal power be invoked when controlled activities are performed without authority of a licence from the agency or in defiance of the licensing conditions established by the agency. Thank you, Madame Chair and members of the Committee. We will be pleased to respond to your questions.
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Study on Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction in Canada : Supplementary Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1945
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Paediatric Society, Canadian Psychiatric Association, Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and College of Family Physicians of Canada are pleased to provide a joint supplementary submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology study on mental health, mental illness and addiction in Canada. This submission provides advice on the areas that we believe require the most immediate attention from the federal government over the short term, and that will have the most direct benefit for those affected by mental illness, poor mental health and addiction. The four areas are: 1. Federal Leadership &Capacity 2. Access Benchmarks and Surveillance Information 3. Best practices in mental illness, mental health and addiction 4. Human resource planning This submission also provides recommendations for specific “priority tasks” under each of these four general areas. 1. Federal Leadership & Capacity Federal leadership and capacity must be rapidly and significantly enhanced in order to address the existing deficiencies in the mental health system. This will signal and institutionalize a renewed commitment by the federal government and will ultimately provide support for Canadians impacted by mental illness, poor mental health and addictions. Federal capacity can be enhanced through one of 3 models: a unit in an existing federal department, a federal arm’s length agency, or a pan-Canadian arm’s length agency. Model 1: Unit within an existing federal department Under this option, a new Branch led by an assistant deputy minister (ADM) would be created within Health Canada to provide policy leadership and deliver federal programs and services in the area of mental health, mental illness and addiction. The ADM would have general authority for its management and direction, be answerable to the deputy minister, and work with all other federal departments and agencies to develop and coordinate policies, programs and services in this area. Model 2: Creation of a federal arm’s length Centre for Mental Illness, Mental Health and Addiction This option would entail the creation of a more independent organization within the purview of the federal government. The ‘Centre for Mental Illness, Mental Health and Addiction’ would be structured as a federal agency in which decision-making powers are vested in a Board of Directors with a CEO responsible for the daily operations. This Board would be representative of all relevant stakeholders including health providers, health researchers, governments and affected populations. The Centre would remain under the health portfolio, with accountability through the Minister of Health. The Centre’s main function would be to deliver federal programs and services, working closely with Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Department of Justice and other organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse. While the Centre would provide advice, the responsibility for federal policy development with respect to mental illness and mental health would continue to reside within Health Canada. Model 3: Pan-Canadian arm’s length institute This option consists of incorporating an Institute as a not-for-profit entity with the federal and provincial governments as shareholders. This model has been used in other areas where federal-provincial collaboration is essential, such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information. As in the previous model, the Institute for Mental Illness, Mental Health and Addiction would have a board, and a CEO. However, instead of direct accountability to the Minister of Health, the institute would be accountable to the Conference of F-P-T Ministers of Health. It would be responsible for delivering pan-Canadian programs and services that are complementary to provincial and territorial mental health/illness programs and services. Policy development responsibilities for mental health, mental illness and addiction would continue to reside with federal and provincial/territorial governments. Each of the models outlined above has strengths and weakness. It is also possible that we could move from one model to another over time once the system is stabilized. However, for the short term, we contend that Model 1, a dedicated unit within Health Canada, would be the best fit with our objective of enhancing federal leadership and capacity to address mental illness, mental health and addiction issues. The strength of Model 1 is that by elevating responsibility for mental health /illness issues to the branch level it raises the profile and importance of these issues. This would reinstate and indeed increase the capacity that had existed within Health Canada but was lost through numerous reorganizations and resource reallocations. In addition intra-departmental and inter-departmental synergies can be maximized with this model. Should this model be chosen, it is important that the federal government demonstrate the kind of collaborative leadership that it has shown in the area of primary care through initiatives funded via the Primary Health Care Transition Fund. 1 The same leadership principles apply to reform of the mental health system in that while there are common problems and solutions across Canada there are also the needs of specific communities which must be addressed individually. Of immediate priority for this unit are initiatives to reduce stigma and to address the mental health needs of First Nations and Inuit Peoples. Stigma Reduction A stigma reduction strategy is an on-going function that must be core to the activities of the federal government. Stigma involves thoughts, emotions and behaviours, thus a comprehensive approach includes interventions to target each of these dimensions at both the individual and population level. The strategy should include aspects of: * Public awareness and education to facilitate understanding about the importance of early diagnosis, treatment, recovery and prevention; * Enhanced provider/student education and support; * Policy analysis and modification of discriminatory legislation; * Support for a strong voluntary sector to voice the concerns of patients and their families; * Exposure to positive spokespeople (e.g. prominent Canadians) who have mental illness and/or addiction in order to highlight success stories; * Researching stigma. The stigma associated with mental illness in children can hinder early identification and intervention and places them on a damaging path of suffering and pain. The effective treatment and community reintegration of people with mental illness and/or addiction will not only improve the lives of those directly affected but will also work to reduce stigma in the long term. First Nations and Inuit Peoples All people with mental illness and/or addiction have a right to programs and services that facilitate recovery and/or improve their quality of life. It is clear that the First Nations and Inuit peoples of Canada experience mental illness, addiction and poor mental health at rates exceeding that of other Canadians. Individual, community and population level factors contribute to this including socioeconomic status, social environment, child development, nutrition, maternal health, culture and access to health services. The urgent need to work with these communities, and identify the structures and interventions to reduce the burden of mental illness and addiction is critical to the health and wellness and future of First Nations and Inuit peoples. Enhanced federal capacity should be created through First Nations and Inuit Health that will provide increased funding and support for First Nations and Inuit community mental health strategies. The establishment of a First Nations and Inuit Mental Health Working Group that is comprised of First Nations and Inuit mental health experts and accountable to First Nations and Inuit leadership is essential for the success of this initiative. Both expert and resource supports are integral elements to facilitate and encourage culturally appropriate mental health strategies and programming in these communities. We believe that as a population, the First Nations and Inuit peoples should be the priority for the federal government in the provision of much need treatment and support. Priority tasks: A. Establish a Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Branch at Health Canada. B. Implement a Stigma Reduction Strategy C. Improve the capacity of First Nations and Inuit peoples to address the mental health needs of their communities in a culturally appropriate manner. 2. Access Benchmarks and Surveillance Information Access to services, both public and private, currently acts as a barrier to treatment and recovery from mental illness, poor mental health and addiction. Promotion of collaborative care models along with better coordination of services would greatly improve the quality of care received. Governments must facilitate integration and access to these services. Recently, the Supreme Court decision in the case of Chaoulli and Zeliotis vs Quebec struck down two provisions in Quebec’s health insurance legislation that prohibit Quebec residents from purchasing private insurance for insured health services. This decision suggests that if Canadians wish to keep their “single-tier” system of universal, first dollar public coverage for health care, then governments must ensure that needed services are available to all Canadians at the time and to the extent of need, including mental health services. Governments must provide timely access to essential services within the public system in order to maximize potential for recovery and quality of life. With the support of the federal government, and on behalf of the medical community, we (CMA, CPA, CPS, CSAM, CFPC) can coordinate and implement a process to develop medically acceptable wait time benchmarks for access to mental illness and addiction care for children and adults. The outcome of this process would be to provide all governments with performance goals to strive for in providing timely access to mental illness and addiction services. With the establishment of benchmarks we will be able to measure how the system is performing. A basic mental illness surveillance system exists and the primary dissemination product is “A Report on Mental Illness in Canada”. However, there is agreement that the current information is limited for several reasons: * There is limited data in the system regarding mental health, addiction and many mental illnesses; * The quality of the data in the system has not been validated for many mental illnesses and addictions; * Not all data sources have been accessed for the surveillance system; * Since many supports and services for mental illness and addictions lie outside the formal health system, the collection of these data has not been possible with current constraints; * There is a need for a broader dissemination system. An expanded mental illness surveillance system should work closely with other chronic disease surveillance initiatives to ensure that indicators of common interest are obtained collaboratively and in an efficient manner. Priority Tasks: A. Federal government financially support the coordination and implementation of a process to develop wait time benchmarks for accessing mental illness and addiction services developed by the CMA, CPA, CPS, CSAM, CFPC. B. Creation of an enhanced mental illness surveillance system to produce: * Information about the prevalence and incidence of mental illnesses, addiction and risk factors at the national, provincial/territorial and regional level. * Progress on improving the availability and accessibility to services. * The availability and accessibility of community resources to support people with mental illness and addiction. * Progress on improving the availability and accessibility to community resources. * Information about the cost of mental illness, poor mental health and addiction to people with the conditions, their families and the health system. * Wait list information for mental health services. 3. Best practices in mental illness, mental health and addiction There are numerous interventions that are effective for various mental illnesses and addiction but ensuring optimal use of effective interventions in the real world has been a challenge. Several factors including lack of use by physicians, failure to prescribe or implement in the recommended manner, costs associated with treatment, and undesirable side effects limit the effectiveness of proven therapies for individual patients. A key element in our capacity to prevent and offer treatment for mental illness and addiction rests with the application of evidence or the promotion of best practices. Therefore we are proposing a pan-Canadian program that can facilitate knowledge exchange across disciplines to optimize outcomes for this population. We are aware that there is currently an initiative led by the Public Health Agency of Canada to establish a Consortium of Best Practices for Chronic Disease prevention. The goal of the Consortium is to create a Pan-Canadian forum for knowledge exchange between governments, researchers, non-governmental organizations and consumers. This initiative is a positive step and should be closely aligned with our proposed program for mental illness, mental health and addiction. The program we are proposing would go further than just prevention, to include treatment and policy alternatives, both within and outside the health domain. The program would serve to enhance best practice approaches through activities such as: * Development of a clearing house to hold evidence-based information for mental illness, mental health and addiction by searching, reviewing and summarizing the current literature and web resources; * Identification of gaps in knowledge, and gaps between evidence and practice; * Development of tools to promote best practices relating to mental illness, mental health and addiction, such as the Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Initiative Tool Kit. Priority Task: A. Establish a program to specifically promote inter-disciplinary best practices in prevention, treatment, community interventions and social supports across the continuum of research, policy, to support practice for evidence-based decision making in the area of mental health, mental illness and addiction. 4. Human resource planning Improving access to specialized and primary mental health diagnostic and treatment services with psychosocial community services that support early intervention, prevention of further disability, rehabilitation, improvement of quality of life and recovery should be considered a fundamental underlying goal of a pan-Canadian action plan. Several initiatives are currently under way in various parts of the country to enhance collaborative approaches to care among health care providers and to better integrate primary and secondary health care services. However, these efforts are taking place in a context of relative shortage of addiction specialists, psychiatrists, paediatricians, family physicians and other mental health care professionals. Family doctor and specialist shortages and changing practice patterns have created serious gaps in the availability of mental health services for many Canadians. Health human resource planning needs to consider and address functionally sub-specialized areas of practice as growing numbers of family doctors are moving into these areas, for example general practice psychotherapy and addiction medicine. Health human resource planning must also continue to ensure sustainability of current initiatives and continued access to care. Early interventions in general and with children specifically are critical to preventing long term disability and minimizing the devastating impact of mental illness. There are far too few mental health professionals to help children, insufficient resources allocated to support their mental health needs, and inadequate research being conducted to fill the gaps in knowledge which exist in this area. We believe that improving the mental health of Canada’s children, including strategies that increase the amount of health providers with expertise in this area must be a priority for the federal government. Priority Tasks: * Establish a pan-Canadian mental health human resource infrastructure responsible for collecting data, monitoring, conducting research, reporting, and making recommendations related to Canada’s ongoing mental health human resources needs, with a priority focus on children’s services, in order to ensure a sustainable supply of health human resources; * Introduce toolkits to assist health practitioners and consumers to implement best practices in collaborative care and develop new models of care in the area of mental health; * Support the evaluation of new models of care in achieving patient centred objectives and improving outcomes; * Increasing research capacity and resources in the area of children’s mental health. Conclusion: Again, our organizations, representing the medical community, appreciate the opportunity to submit to the Committee further elaboration on key initiatives to ensure federal leadership is taken. We want to thank the committee not only for seeking our advice but also for bringing national attention to issues related to mental illness, mental health and addiction. End Notes 1 The Primary Health Care Transition fund supported provinces and territories in their efforts to reform the primary health care system in addition to supporting various pan-Canadian initiatives to address common barriers. Although the Primary Health Care Transition Fund itself was time-limited, the changes which it supported were intended to have a lasting and sustainable impact on the health care system.
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