An investment in mental health and addictions treatment is the highlight of B.C.’s three-year health-care spending budget promise, despite only making up a fraction of the $6.4-billion total.
The province says it’s committing $867 million to expanding treatment and recovery options and complex-care sites. The investment will include more treatment beds, new long-term recovery communities, Indigenous treatment centres and more wraparound services for youth.
The province says it’s also committed to rolling out a seamless care model that supports people from detox through to aftercare.
This stood out to Stacy Ashton, the executive director of the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. A continuum of care is vital to ensure someone experiencing a mental health crisis doesn’t fall back into the same cycle, she said.
“Where we get most frustrated is with the revolving door.”
Jonny Morris, CEO of the B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said he is also pleased with the investment.
“It’s quite remarkable. Today is historic.”
He said the toxic drug crisis B.C. is currently facing makes it clear the immediate focus needs to be on recovery and treatment, but said he’d also like to see investments in more mental health and preventative measures.
Adults with serious mental illness, such as depression, bipolar, eating disorders and schizophrenia, have few affordable and accessible supports available to them, Morris said, noting that the budget doesn’t bring psychiatric care under the Medical Services Plan as many had called for ahead of Tuesday.
It also doesn’t remove treatment bed fees, except on newly built ones.
Mental health and addictions funding aside, health-care spending in B.C.’s 2023-24 provincial budget focuses largely on keeping the system afloat.
The largest chunk of spending of $2.6 billion will be devoted to simply offsetting the costs of a growing and ageing population and the impacts of inflation on equipment and supplies.
B.C. estimates close to a quarter of the population will be over the age of 65 by 2031, up from one fifth in 2021.
Other dollar figures in the health-care budget include $1.1 billion for the new family physician payment model and $995 million to implement the health workforce strategy, both announced in fall 2022, as well as $875 million for the ongoing costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Overall spending will start at $2.3 billion for the 2023/24 fiscal year, before dipping to $1.65 billion in 2024/25 and finishing off at $2.45 billion in 2025/26.