If you’ve been hoping the province would step up its game in the mental health care arena, your wishes are being answered. The province announced recently that its making the largest single investment in mental health care in Canadian history.
The historic and unprecedented investment is a whopping $2.1 billion, plus an additional $570 million so that young people can access the supports they need, over four years.
The province says it has also increased annual operational funding for mental health and addictions care to $3.8 billion. This brings the total investment in mental health and addictions services in Ontario to more than $17 billion over four years.
This is a big deal – according to the province, one in three people in Ontario experience mental health or addictions challenges in their lifetime, so the money could help a lot of people.
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And that means major changes are coming to the province’s mental healthcare system from now until 2022.
Here’s what’s going to change, according to the province:
- In 2018-19, more than 12,000 more young people will be able to access community-based services such as therapy and counselling, a number that will grow to about 46,000 by 2021-22
- Every secondary school in Ontario will have access to an additional mental health worker, with about 400 new positions being added within two years
- The province will create at least 15 additional youth wellness hubs over four years to improve access to services, fill critical service gaps for youth aged 12 to 25 and improve transitions to adult services
- Up to 350,000 more people with mild to moderate anxiety or depression across the province will have access to publicly funded structured psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy, closer to home in settings like their doctor’s offices or a community organization
- The province will create 2,475 more supportive housing units over four years for those who require care in safe, affordable and appropriate housing
- Access to withdrawal management and residential and community treatment services for young people and adults living with addictions in Ontario will be expanded, including services in every community and support for more programs and services that are culturally appropriate
“These historic investments will help reduce wait lists and make it easier for people to access the care they need when they need it,” said the province in a recent statement.
“By 2021, people will also be able to quickly get a mental health and addictions screening, crisis counselling and referral services through whichever method they choose through a new help line – online, by text or on the phone.”
It’s true, a new provincial help line will launch in 2021. It will be available 24/7.
More mental health services are also on the horizon for offenders to help people avoid incarceration or beocming a repeat offender as part of this investment, says the province.
Those include programs for shelter-hostal outreach and funding for Mobile Crisis Rapid Response – sage beds for people in crisis and police officer-mental health worker teams who respond to mental health crises calls.
As well, the province will be appointing a Special Advisor to “provide recommendations on a proposed structure for a governance model for Ontario’s improved mental health and addictions system.”
Last year, the province also announced it would invest $222 million over three years to combat the opioid crisis, which plays a large role in mental health and addictions in our area.
Thinking big-picture, these mental health services changes are part of a 10-year funding agreement with the federal government.
What do you think of the plans?