The City of Toronto has recently released an innovative five-year mental health and harm reduction strategy aimed at addressing the pressing issues of mental health and substance abuse within the community. In a press conference, councillors Chris Moise and Ausma Malik outlined the key actions that will be undertaken to mitigate harm related to substance use and promote mental well-being.
Under the banner of “Our Health, Our City,” this strategy emphasizes the importance of investing in families, neighborhoods, and communities to tackle the roots of mental illnesses and substance abuse. The vision is to view mental health and addiction as health issues rather than criminal ones. By acknowledging the impact of social discrimination, inequity, and trauma, the goal is to provide Torontonians with the necessary resources and support to thrive.
The strategy encompasses seven main actions:
1. Promoting mental health and well-being.
2. Preventing and reducing harms and deaths associated with substance use.
3. Expanding access to a comprehensive range of evidence-based services, including harm reduction and treatment supports.
4. Advancing community safety and well-being for all.
5. Improving access to housing and other social determinants of health.
6. Supporting mentally healthy workplaces and optimizing the mental wellness of workers.
7. Proactively identifying and addressing emerging mental health and substance abuse issues.
To ensure inclusivity, the strategy tailors its recommendations to diverse age groups, acknowledging Toronto’s growing, aging, and increasingly diverse population. It also recognizes the urgent need to tackle the alarming statistics surrounding mental health. Recent data reveals that by the age of 40, one in two Canadians is affected by mental health issues, exacerbated further by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The implementation of this comprehensive strategy will require collaboration and effort from multiple city divisions, community organizations, and healthcare partners. In order to fund the initiatives, the commitment relies on support from the provincial and federal governments. The City of Toronto is confident that with the lived experiences witnessed by many MPs from Toronto, advocacy for the allocation of resources will be prioritized.
An important component of the strategy involves Toronto’s application to Health Canada for a drug decriminalization exemption. This exemption would allow for the possession of small amounts of drugs without criminal repercussions. Toronto Public Health made the application in January 2022 and is currently engaged in ongoing discussions with Health Canada to explore the potential benefits and feasibility of this approach.
The dire need for this strategy is evident, as drug toxicity deaths in Toronto have risen significantly, with a staggering 271% increase since 2015. It is crucial to prevent these deaths, which are entirely preventable, through a health-centric approach rather than relying on the criminal justice system.
The City of Toronto’s five-year mental health and harm reduction plan will be presented to the Toronto Board of Health for discussion on November 27. This comprehensive strategy signifies a united effort to prioritize mental health and substance abuse concerns and foster a healthier and more inclusive city for all Torontonians.
Q: What is the main focus of the mental health and harm reduction strategy released by the City of Toronto?
A: The main focus of the strategy is to view mental health and addiction as health issues rather than criminal ones, and to invest in families, neighborhoods, and communities to address the roots of mental illnesses and substance use.
Q: How will the strategy be implemented?
A: The implementation of the strategy will require collaboration from multiple city divisions, community organizations, and health care partners.
Q: What is Toronto’s application to Health Canada for a drug decriminalization exemption?
A: Toronto Public Health has applied for an exemption to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs. The application is currently being discussed with Health Canada.
Q: What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in Toronto?
A: The pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues, with a decline from 71% to 55% of adults reporting “very good” or “excellent” mental health in Toronto.
Q: How does the strategy address the rising drug toxicity deaths in Toronto?
A: The strategy aims to prevent and reduce harm associated with substance use by expanding access to evidence-based services, including harm reduction and treatment supports. The goal is to approach mental health and substance abuse as health issues rather than criminal justice issues.