Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Same Story to Our North

Many often point to Canada as an example of a national health system that works. Leaving that political debate aside for the moment, Canada’s mental health system—or rather lack of a mental health system—is remarkable similar to our own nation’s.

In, “Breakdown: Canada’s Mental Health Crisis,” the Toronto Globe spells out all too many similarities.

“In the past 50 years, Canada has gone from 60,000 long-term beds for people with mental illness, to about 6,000 beds,” reports the Globe. “Most people with mental illness are better off in the community, but only if treatment is available. In the current non-system, the sickest of the sick often end up on the streets, in jail or spiraling downward in grungy rooming houses.”

Adjust the numbers and change the geography and it would be like reading the Treatment Advocacy Center’s study on the shortage of U.S. hospital beds.

“The problem in Canada spills over into the jails, just as it does in the U.S.

In fact, about one in five prisoners in Canadian jails suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, making our jails de facto asylums – a travesty for those who are sick and a huge waste of resources,” according to the Globe.

Sound familiar?

There is, however, one bit of reporting from the Globe that raises a question. The Globe notes that Canada is the only Group of Eight country without a mental-health strategy. If the U.S. has a mental-health strategy, where is it hiding?