Canada’s big city mayors calling for national benchmarks to tackle mental health crisis

Big city mayors meet in Toronto for a summit on mental health on April 9, 2018. Global News

A national strategy and agreed-upon benchmarks are just some of the measures being proposed by the country’s big city mayors to tackle mental health issues plaguing urban communities across Canada.

“Benchmarks with respects to what we should be expecting of ourselves with regard to things like supportive housing and treatment for drugs and things like that,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters during a mental health summit at the University of Toronto on Monday.

“Common benchmarks so we don’t worry about which government is doing what, but we just get the information we need and set some goals for ourselves and how we are going to do better.”

READ MORE: Ontario Liberals propose $2.1B to ‘rebuild’ mental health system

Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, one of a handful of mayors across the country brought together to speak at the summit, said the federal government should create a national mental health strategy.

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“We have found that if we use our voices together, unified voices, we can achieve quite a bit as we have on the infrastructure file, public transit file, and the affordable housing file,” Crombie said.

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“This should be the next issue we should tackle as a unified group of mayors from across the country to have our federal government work hand in hand with provincial government to focus on the issue of mental health.”

LISTEN: Toronto Mayor John Tory joins The Morning Show on 640 Toronto

Officials said mental health issues have played a significant role in the country’s opioid crisis and that more needs to be done to address those who require aid to prevent further deaths.

“We know now that 2017 was about 4,000 deaths in Canada, double the number of traffic fatalities,” Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said.

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“We need to see a standard across the country and federal leadership. This is a crisis like we have never seen before in public health and it’s wiping out many, many people with mental health challenges who are self-medicating with opioids, and people who have been addicted to prescribed opioids, who are now having to buy street drugs that are laced with poison that’s killing them.”

Monday’s summit is being held in partnership with Toronto Public Health, the Wellesley Institute, CAMH, Civic Action, Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“Building healthy, equitable and resilient communities involves actions in many settings and from a range of health, government and community stakeholders working in areas including primary prevention, education, housing, supportive care, and treatment,” Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said in a media release.

“This collaborative effort will continue to help improve the overall health status of the population and build a healthy city for all.”

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