The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is making more than two dozen recommendations to the provincial government, as B.C. prepares to roll out a poverty reduction strategy.
The organization made the submission on Wednesday, arguing that economic well-being and mental health and substance abuse have a complex, interlinked relationship.
“People experiencing mental illness or substance use are at an increased risk of living in poverty because of stigma, discrimination, social exclusion, additional health-care costs, and barriers to employment,” said Kendra Milne, a senior B.C. director with the CMHA.
“Conversely, people living in poverty face an increased risk of experiencing stress and trauma, which has a strong correlation with mental illness and problematic substance use.”
The CMHA says both economic security and an adequate standard of living are critical to maintaining mental health and well-being.
The association also says it’s no secret that B.C.’s mental-health and substance-abuse services lack co-ordination and the ability to provide timely support, relying instead on acute care in hospitals at a higher overall cost.
WATCH: Vancouver rally demands provincial poverty action plan
The CMHA recommends first and foremost that B.C. ensures all residents have access to quality mental health and addiction care in their communities.
It also recommends the province improve co-ordination between mental health, housing, income and justice services. And it calls for both an increase in disability-income-assistance rates and easier access to disability assistance.
B.C. unveiled a 27-member panel, including members from the disability community, business and labour groups and First Nations, charged with developing the province’s poverty reduction strategy.
The province is slated to legislate targets and timelines associated with the strategy this spring.
B.C. is the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The province says B.C. has Canada’s highest poverty rate, with more than 675,000 British Columbians living below the poverty line.
About 40 per cent of those living in poverty are the so-called “working poor,” while nearly 120,000 are children, and nearly 65,000 are seniors, according to provincial figures.