Ontario government invests in mental health and addictions

TORONTO—The Ontario government has announced that it is investing $28 million in local mental health and addictions organizations across the province to provide care closer to home for people who are experiencing mental health and addictions challenges.

“We have all been touched by mental health and addiction challenges, whether through a friend, a co-worker, a family member or our own experience,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, in a press release. “By continuing to invest in community services, we’re helping to connect people with the support they need closer to home through settings that are more culturally appropriate and personal. These investments will improve the lives of people experiencing mental illness and addictions challenges and the families that help care for them.”

“Recovery isn’t an easy road,” said Matt Bell, a person described as having “lived experience” and a current FRESH (Finding Recovery through Exercise, Skill and Hope) worker in the same release. “The Gerstein Crisis Centre, with programs such as FRESH, helps people with their recovery from mental health and substance use issues to live well and have rich and happy lives. By supporting these kinds of important community services, we’re helping people build their dignity, self-esteem and a second chance at life.”

The province is also creating a province-wide registry of mental health beds to connect those experiencing a mental health crisis with the closest available bed.

This investment will support mental health and addictions services, including: increased access to services such as supportive housing, short-term crisis support beds, peer support groups and treatment programs; shorter wait times for care through the new registry of inpatient mental health beds. It will provide doctors, first responders and emergency departments with up-to-date information about available inpatient beds across the province; improved transitions between care teams so people do not have to tell their story multiple times; and more early intervention initiatives to reduce repeat visits to emergency departments. For example, expanding the number of early psychosis intervention teams to help people early on after onset of psychosis.

The details of what this announced funding will mean for Manitoulin Island are not ready for release by the Northeast Local Integrated Health Network, said communications person Lara Bradley. “There will be announcements coming soon,” she said.

The next phase of Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy will include $138 million over three years for community agencies to support improvements to mental health and addictions services, also through Local Health Integration Networks.

“Supporting mental health and addictions services closer to home is part of Ontario’s Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care,” continues the release. “It is also part of the government’s four-part plan to build Ontario up by investing in people’s talents and skills, building new public infrastructure like roads and transit, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure savings plan so everyone can afford to retire.

As part of the announcement it was noted that each of the province’s 14 LHINs are investing an additional $2 million for 2014-15 in community-based mental health and addictions services.

The release points out that there are currently 4,700 inpatient mental health beds in more than 80 facilities across Ontario and that approximately 30 percent of Ontarians will experience a mental health and/or substance abuse challenge at some point in their lifetime, with one out of 40 Ontarians experiencing a serious mental illness.

By 2017, notes the release, the provincial government will have increased annual funding for mental health and addictions by a total of $172 million since it launched the Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy in 2011.