Province pumps up mental health funding for children and youth

S-D-SG MPP Jim McDonell. Nation Valley News file photo

EASTERN ONTARIO — Having dropped an extra $3.5 million into the mental health of high school students earlier in the month, the Ford government followed up today with $24.3 million to help address stress, depression, anxiety and eating disorders in children and youth.

October is Mental Health Awareness month, and 2020 has seen increasing concerns about the pandemic’s deleterious impact on the public’s mental wellbeing.

Locally, today’s $24.3 million announcement includes dollars for children and youth mental health services at Cornwall Community Hospital, Equipe Psycho-sociale and Valoris pour enfants et adultes de Prescott-Russell.

The funding comprises part of the province’s $176 million spending increase this year on its so-called “Roadmap to Wellness” — which the government describes as a “comprehensive plan to build a fully connected mental health and addictions system across the province.”

“I know this has been a challenging period for many of our kids and young people, but by making these targeted investments our government is making it easier for them to access the mental health and additions services they need,” said Premier Ford.

“Our priority is to ensure all youth and children in Ontario have access to the high-quality services and supports they deserve and their parents expect,” said MPP Jim McDonell. “We will continue to listen and work collaboratively so that the journey Ontarians take towards mental wellness is fully supported.”

The government is highlighting “targeted investments” in community-based mental health supports and services for children and youth “with a focus on evidence-based and innovative programs.” These include:

• $11 million for over 80 children and youth mental health service providers to enhance
capacity and access to critical frontline child and youth mental health services, including:
• Hiring additional staff;
• Purchasing and developing additional resources to increase access to services such as counselling and therapy, intensive and crisis services; and
• Supports for families and caregivers of children and youth with mental health addictions challenges.
• $5.8 million for youth wellness teams at 10 Youth Wellness Hubs across Ontario. These youth-friendly service locations are designed for youth, and offer walk-in access to primary care and mental health and addictions services for people between the ages of 12 to 25;
• $3.7 million for a new eating disorders program. This early intervention program will help prevent and support children and youth up to the age of 25 that may be struggling with an eating disorder. There will be four pilot sites to start, with plans to expand the program across the province;
• $2 million for the implementation of an Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program for families, children and youth. This new program will provide evidence-based mental health supports for children, youth and their families that will help them develop skills to manage stress, depression and anxiety in a healthy way;
• $1 million for child and youth mental health services delivered in congregate settings. This funding will help provide care that will better meet their needs; and
• $800,000 to support the creation and operation of Eating Disorders Ontario, which will help with quality improvement across the whole eating disorders sector.

Roadmap to Wellness is supposed to see $3.8 billion spent over 10 years to create new services and expand programs. This year’s $176 million increase follows an extra $174 million the government invested last year in mental health and addictions programs.

“Our government continues to make critical investments in the mental health and addictions sector to ensure children, youth and their families have access to the supports they need, especially during these unprecedented times,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.

The earlier $3.5 million increase in mental health supports for postsecondary students — announced Oct. 6 — is part of $19.25 million budgeted for that issue in 2020-2021.  “This funding will help students by strengthening community partnerships and increasing the number of mental health workers and programs at colleges, universities and Indigenous Institutes,” the government says.

That budgeted amount also covers a mental health helpline for high schoolers: Good2Talk/Allo j’écoute is available all hours, every day.


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