CAMH challenges mayoral candidates to address the mental health and addictions crisis in Toronto

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Recommendations include scaling up early intervention psychosis programs, substance use treatment for methamphetamine and other stimulant users and supportive housing

TORONTO, April 13, 2023 /CNW/ – With Toronto facing a mental health crisis and the most vulnerable Torontonians suffering, CAMH is challenging Toronto’s mayoral election candidates to commit to urgent actions to address the crisis and improve the lives of all Torontonians.

“Our health system and social system have reached a breaking point,” says Dr. David Gratzer, CAMH psychiatrist and co-chief of the General Adult Psychiatry and Health Systems Division. “We are experiencing an increase in demand for emergency services specifically related to psychosis and methamphetamine use.”

“A rise in methamphetamine and increased drug usage are further complicating the crisis,” says Dr. Leslie Buckley, CAMH’s Chief of Addictions. “We need actionable solutions and urgent investments in programs that will make a difference.”

To highlight the severity of the situation, CAMH is sharing the following statistics:

  • The number of people visiting CAMH’s Emergency Department (ED) due to amphetamine use (mostly methamphetamine) increased by more than 700 per cent between 2014 and 2021. Across Ontario, there has been a 15-fold increase in amphetamine-related emergency department visits over the last 20 years.
  • The number of youth visiting CAMH’s ED due to substance use problems increased by 50 per cent between July 2022 and January 2023.
  • Nearly 50 per cent of youth visiting CAMH’s ED and receiving outpatient care have some symptoms of psychosis.
  • 10,702 people were homeless in Toronto between November 2022 and January 2023 with shelters at critical capacity.

Toronto is facing a housing crisis and is not meeting the needs of thousands of people experiencing homelessness,” says Dr. Sean Kidd, CAMH’s chief of psychology and clinician-scientist whose focus includes youth homelessness. “We know that safe and affordable housing is crucial for mental wellness, as mental health, addiction, poverty and housing are inextricably linked to one another.”

CAMH is proposing Toronto mayoral candidates commit to supporting evidence-informed solutions that target serious mental illness and substance use disorders and can make an immediate impact. CAMH’s recommendations are:

  1. Urgently ensuring that Toronto’s substance use treatment system is set up to deal with an influx of people who use methamphetamine and other stimulants by investing $500,000 to establish a Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic (RAAM) and Hub with related supports for methamphetamine and other stimulant users in the city.
  2. Investing $1.2M/year over three years to scale up the effective and proven ‘NAVIGATE’ Early Psychosis Intervention program across the province so that young people in Ontario can live healthy and productive lives, regardless of their mental health condition.
  3. Ensuring that 18,000 new, affordable, good quality supportive housing units are available in Toronto by 2023.

“CAMH is ready to support all levels of government in tackling this crisis,” says Dr. Gratzer. “It is imperative that we take a multi-pronged approach to tackle this issue – addressing not only the immediate needs, but also the causes of the crisis. There must be a real and ongoing commitment to homelessness, as well as substance misuse and poor access to care in the city.”

For more information about CAMH’s recommendations, click here.

About the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital and a world leading research centre in this field. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help transform the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and is a Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization Collaborating Centre. For more information, please visit camh.ca or follow @CAMHnews on Twitter.

SOURCE Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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