Montreal Gazette (Dec 3): Psychotherapy: Quebec to invest $35 million in mental health

In Quebec, as in other provinces, psychotherapy services are not part of publicly insured health-care services although psychotherapy is a recognized treatment option for common mental disorders.

Inspired by a similar program in place in the United Kingdom for a decade, Quebec’s investment aims to establish the service, develop a reference framework, upgrade training of health professionals as well as set up a registry of recognized psychotherapists.

Announced in Montreal by Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, the program is expected to get underway next year. 

Once the program is running, those with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, among others, could consult a psychotherapist and be reimbursed by the provincial health insurance board (RAMQ).

According to government estimates, the annual range of services would affect about three per cent of the population. That represents about 600,000 appointments, of which 260,000 are high-intensity in people whose conditions are more severe.

The provincial order of psychologists welcomed Sunday’s announcement of an extension of coverage to mental health.

This announcement demonstrates a real desire to give mental health the attention it deserves by responding to the health needs of thousands of Quebecers with mental disorders, said psychologist Christine Grou, president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec.

In 2012, Quebec’s independent health watchdog, the now-defunct Commissioner of Health and Welfare, had recommended the government provide equitable access to psychotherapy services, saying it would be beneficial in terms of improving public health, and it is also cost-effective with medical service savings in the range of 20 to 30 per cent.

According to a 2013 study by the Institut de la statistique du Québec, more than “200,000 people over 15 needed to consult a social worker, psychologist or psychotherapist but were unable to do so over a 12-month period in 2010-2011 because they had no insurance or could not afford to pay.”

Recent figures from the Coalition for Access to Psychotherapy suggest the demand is high: More than 50,000 children and young adults age 12-24, and more than 430,000 adults between 25 and 64 receive a diagnosis for such common mental disorders as anxiety and depression each year in Quebec.

“By increasing accessibility to psychotherapy, we are preventing even more serious consequences in the lives of those who are suffering and those of their loved ones,” Grou said in a statement. 

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