CIHR National Standards for Mental Health Services Initiative


The National Standards for Mental Health Services Initiative is a partnership between the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The initiative supports research to inform the development of national standards for mental health and substance use services so Canadians can access the support they need when they need it. 

There are many unknowns about how standards in health care (i.e., standards or principles to guide service delivery) are applied and how they influence health outcomes or improve care. It is hoped that new Canadian standards for mental health services will improve service delivery, health outcomes, and care, but there is an urgent need for high-quality research to inform their development.

CIHR’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR-INMHA) leads the development of research funding opportunities to inform the development of national standards for mental health and substance use services. 

As a first investment under the initiative, CIHR is providing $600,000 to support six research projects. These projects were funded as part of a larger research investment aimed at improving health equity, cost, population health, patient experience, and provider experience. The research teams will focus on standards specifically, with an emphasis on virtual delivery of care within one of the following areas:

  • integration of care, specifically for children, youth and young adults (i.e., ages 10-25) with mental health issues, or adults with complex needs (i.e., concurrent mental health and substance use disorders);
  • integration of mental health or substance use services within primary and community-based care;
  • health care workforce, specifically professionals who deliver mental health or substance use services.

Funded research projects

Lead Researcher Project Title
Dr. Janet Durbin
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Standardizing approaches to transitions in care in early psychosis intervention
Dr. Kathleen Leslie
Athabasca University
Regulatory standards for the mental health and substance use health workforce across Canada: Modernizing regulation to increase equitable access to services
Dr. Roula Markoulakis
Sunnybrook Research Institute
Navigation for youth mental health and addictions: A realist review and synthesis of approaches and practices (The NavMAP standards project)
Dr. Braden O'Neill
Unity Health Toronto
Developing Canadian national standards for virtual delivery of mental health services within primary care
Dr. Robert Simpson
Sunnybrook Research Institute
Implementing online mindfulness-based interventions for people with multiple sclerosis across Ontario
Dr. Nibene Habib Somé
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician delivery of virtual and in-person mental health care services across reformed primary care payment models in Ontario

Additional funding opportunities for the National Standards for Mental Health Services Initiative will be launched in the upcoming year.

For any inquiries related to this research initiative, please contact the CIHR Contact Centre at

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