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$500M for mental health and opioid crisis, as B.C. budget boosts health spending by $2.6B

Click to play video: 'B.C. Government unveils 2021 budget'
B.C. Government unveils 2021 budget
B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson has rolled out the government's 2021 budget, with a significant focus on post-pandemic recovery spending. Richard Zussman has the details – Apr 20, 2021

B.C.’s government is touting what it calls the largest mental health funding increase in the province’s history in a 2021 budget heavy on health-care spending.

Health-care spending is climbing by $2.6 billion over the next three years, according to documents released Tuesday, then up to $25.4 billion by 2023-2024. For the 2021 fiscal year, health care will account for more than 35 per cent of all spending.

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The province is targeting $500 million to address mental health and substance use over three years.

The lion’s share of that money — $330 million — will go to funding a response to B.C.’s overdose crisis.

Click to play video: 'B.C. marks five years since overdose crisis public health emergency declaration'
B.C. marks five years since overdose crisis public health emergency declaration

The province is allocating $152 million for opioid treatment, making overdose prevention supports implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic permanent.

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It is also funding 195 new substance use treatment and recovery beds, along with new outpatient peer- and community-based support.

Mental health funding for children and youth is getting a boost to the tune of $97 million, as the province expands programs in schools and increases the number of integrated child and youth teams in B.C. from five to 20.

Money for Foundry centres, “one-stop shops” for youth seeking mental health and substance services, will double their number — from 11 to 23 province-wide.

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The government is also setting aside $900 million from a $3.25-billion COVID-19 contingency fund for pandemic-related health-care costs, including vaccine deployment, personal protective equipment and virus screening at health-care facilities.

The province is aiming to hire 3,000 new health-care workers with $585 million for the Health Career Access Program.

About a quarter-billion dollars will go to expanding the province’s urgent and primary care centre rollout, while $300 million will go to improving access to cancer care and PharmaCare and to reduce the backlog for diagnostic imaging and surgeries.

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