Mental health and addiction care

How to strengthen the role of physicians in mental health and addiction care.

In anticipation of the Ontario government moving forward with its renewed mental health and addiction strategy, the OMA took the opportunity to inform this strategy through a series of white papers.

Mental health is critical to overall well-being, but access to mental health and addiction care continues to be a challenge for many patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this issue. Physicians play a fundamental yet often inexplicit role in addressing mental health and addiction issues in Ontario.

The OMA white paper, Recommendations to Strengthen the Role of Physicians in Mental Health and Addiction Care, provides recommendations to improve mental health and addiction care in Ontario through strengthening the role of physicians in delivering these services.

The OMA recommends that the health-care system needs to:

  • formalize and make explicit the roles of various providers in mental health and addiction service delivery and identify the roles that are most effectively, efficiently and safely performed by physicians
  • match the supply, distribution and utilization of physicians to address the specific mental health and addiction needs of patients that are best served by physicians
  • establish and implement standards for equitable, connected, timely and high-quality mental health and addiction service delivery throughout the province
  • support mental health and addiction leadership training for physicians in mental health and addiction care
  • enable specific leadership opportunities for physicians in Ontario Health Teams’ design and implementation to strengthen mental health and addiction care
  • promote physician leadership within the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence

Significant gaps in care

This white paper is the first in a series of two papers on addressing mental health. The second paper, Responding to a Mental Health and Addiction Tsunami, is focused on addressing the mental health and addiction implications at a system/population-level resulting from the pandemic. The second paper calls on the Ontario government to examine the resource barriers (for example, financial) that impact physicians’ ability to continue to effectively deal with the volume of care needs emerging, as well as improved support for community-based addiction care, improving physicians’ access to existing mental health resources for their patients and promoting physician health and wellness.