Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am pleased to be here today to talk about a number of investments requested in the 2022-2023 supplementary estimates (B).
I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are meeting on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people, who have been the stewards of this land and water since time immemorial.
I am pleased to be here, of course, with my colleague, Minister Duclos, and our colleagues from Health Canada, from the Public Health Agency and from CIHR.
While COVID‑19 has increased the number of people experiencing mental health problems, it has also made many of us more willing to talk about our own mental health.
We hope that this begins to reduce the stigma that remains a significant barrier to seeking care.
Since 2015, we have made historic investments to support mental health and to deal with problematic substance use, including the $5 billion to the provinces and territories to increase the availability of mental health care; $598 million for a distinctions-based mental health and wellness strategy for indigenous peoples; $270 million for the Wellness Together portal; $45 million to develop some national standards on the priorities I articulated by the provinces and territories; $350 million in the substance use and addictions program since 2020; and many other targeted investments on substance use and mental health promotion innovation.
The $5-billion investment through provincial and territorial bilateral agreements is currently providing $600 million of additional annual funding until 2027.
I am also pleased to say that the online portal, Wellness Together Canada, and its companion pocket app, PocketWell, which have specific funding included in the supplementary estimates (B), have assisted Canadians in getting the help they need both directly and as a stepping stone to receiving advice or finding more specialized care.
We know, sadly, that when so many Canadians need support, that support is still all too often out of reach. There is much more that needs to be done. Among other further actions, we will continue to engage with provinces, territories and stakeholders to invest additional funding through a mental health transfer.
The Standards Council of Canada, together with our provincial and territorial partners, is also developing national standards for evidence-based mental health and addiction services on the six priority areas identified with our provincial and territorial colleagues.
We are particularly encouraged by the incredible early progress of national standards for integrated youth services.
We welcome the CRTC's decision to approve the new 988 three-digit suicide prevention line, and we are working to ensure it has the capacity for a very successful launch next fall.
We want people to know that if they are struggling with thoughts of suicide, or know someone who is, help is available right now at 1-833-456-4566.
The toxic drug and overdose crisis continues to take a tragic toll on families, loved ones and communities. Our government will use every tool at its disposal to work with its partners to end this national public health crisis. Since 2017, we have committed more than $800 million to address the overdose crisis. We are taking concrete steps to divert people who use drugs away from the criminal justice system. This is a public health issue.
Approving B.C.'s decriminalization proposal for personal possession of small amounts of certain substances was an important step. So far, we have also supported 27 projects supporting a safer supply of drugs.
We must demonstrate to Canadians that we share their concerns and have been listening to those with lived and living experiences, the experts, and those on the front lines, to put in place evidence-based actions to address the parallel pandemics of mental health and the tragic ongoing toxic drug and overdose crisis.
I look forward to exploring this topic further by answering your thoughtful questions.