Chiefs of Ontario look forward to working with the province on the expansion of mental health strategy

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TORONTO—First Nation leaders in Ontario are welcoming the expansion of mental health services and look forward to working with the province in addressing the needs of First Nation people in achieving mental wellness.

“The province of Ontario will move forward on the next phase of its mental health strategy. We are supportive of an advisory council with a mandate to advise government on the implementation of this next phase as well as the investments that need to be made,” Regional Chief Stan Beardy said. “This means the re-launch of the strategy becomes an important component in our relationship priorities with the province of Ontario.”

The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework is a shared vision between the Assembly of First Nations, the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation and the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch for the future of First Nations mental wellness programs and services.

The strength of the framework has been the process of ensuring connection to regional and national First Nation health and wellness networks in the development of the shared vision. Achieving the envisioned continuum of mental wellness will require sustained commitment and collaboration as well as leadership support across the continuum of care among provincial, federal and territorial programs, the press release states.

While chiefs welcomed the expansion of tele-mental health services for children, as well as the 86 new mental health workers placed in First Nations or aboriginal agencies, effectiveness of these initiatives has yet to be measured as access may still be limited in some areas of the province.

The First Nation Mental Health working group looks forward to establishing a dialogue with the advisory council to help shape the responsiveness to First Nation peoples in this expanded strategy. “In order for First Nations to truly have a presence in the mental health strategy for Ontario, there needs to be space in the strategy for an acknowledgement of our cultural world view and the importance of a holistic approach that considers the individual, the family, and community together in that strategy,” said Anishinabek Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, chair of the Ontario First Nations Chiefs Committee on Health. “Ontario’s strategy must provide opportunities for us to approach mental wellness in a similar way to the national First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework-that achievement of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual well-being can only happen through a comprehensive approach that respects First Nations cultural knowledge, approaches, languages and ways of knowing.”

The Chiefs of Ontario support the province in the developing a funding model that reflects discussion from the advisory council as well as the people that are on the ground doing the work. Resources need to be used effectively and efficiently that will benefit First Nations regardless of where they live, and all Ontarians.