The Public Cost of Mental Health– and Addiction-Related Services for Youth (Ages 12-17) in Alberta [2018]

To measure the provincial government cost of mental health–related activities for youth ages 12 to 17 in Alberta in 2014 to 2015.

The target population was Alberta youth ages 12 to 17 (the federal justice definition) who received or were funded for mental health–related or complementary services from Alberta Health Services, Alberta Health, Alberta Human Services, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General, and Alberta Education (public schools). Data on services and expenditures were obtained from each source for the target youth population.

Costs for mental health–related services for all ministries were $175 million for 27,169 youth who used mental health services as defined by Policy Wise, $6460 per youth. Public school special education supplements for youth with emotional problems was the largest group, amounting to 30% of all costs. Other prominent sources of expenditures were hospital inpatient mental health services (18%), community mental health services (11%), physician mental health services (10%), and secure services with treatment requiring judicial approval (9%).

Economists in several countries have developed countrywide measures of mental health expenditures and have used these to generate national benchmarks for mental health spending. We have estimated spending for Alberta provincial mental health and addiction services for a distinct and highly vulnerable group. This measure can be used to develop measures and benchmarks for other provinces, which will be valuable policy indicators.

Philip Jacobs DPhil, Alain Lesage, MD

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, August 29, 2018