ONTARIO – Ontario’s mental health and addictions system is disconnected with uneven access to quality services, making it challenging for patients and families to navigate a confusing system and get the services they need, a report from the province begins.
Last month, the province introduced the Foundations for Promoting and Protecting Mental Health and Addictions Services Act. If passed, this act would establish a Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence within Ontario Health and support the province’s participation in the national class action lawsuit British Columbia launched last year against more than 40 opioid manufacturers and wholesalers.
“In response to longstanding calls for stronger provincial leadership, our government is taking a system-wide approach to building a connected mental health and addictions system,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and then Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. “The proposed Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence would ensure Ontario patients and families are able to access integrated, standardized, evidence-based care and services no matter where they live. The new centre would lay the foundation as we develop and implement a comprehensive mental health care strategy.”
Creating the centre follows recommendations made in 2010 by the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions, co-chaired by Minister Elliott and established through a motion she presented. Within Ontario Health, the proposed Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence would: establish a central point of accountability and oversight for mental health and addictions care; be responsible for standardizing and monitoring the quality and delivery of services and clinical care across the province, to provide a better and more consistent patient experience; and provide support and resources to Ontario Health Teams, which is a new model to integrate care and funding, connect patients to the different types of care they need and help them navigate the system.
If passed, the Foundations for Promoting and Protecting Mental Health and Addictions Services Act would support Ontario’s participation in the national class action lawsuit British Columbia launched last year against more than 40 opioid manufacturers and wholesalers. The lawsuit was launched on behalf of all provincial, territorial and federal governments and aims to recover government health care costs incurred due to opioid-related disease, injury or illness.
“The opioid crisis has cost the people of Ontario enormously, both in terms of lives lost and its impact on health care’s front lines,” said Attorney General Caroline Mulroney. “If passed, this proposed legislation would support us taking further action to battle the ongoing opioid crisis and hold manufacturers and wholesalers accountable for their roles in it.”
“Our government is taking a multi-ministerial approach that brings together Ontario’s health, education, housing, justice and social services sector, among others, to work alongside one another to help bring much-needed supports to communities across Ontario,” said Minister Elliott. “Our government is investing in solutions today that will help reduce wait times, enhance opioids and addictions services, create additional supportive housing, build capacity in child and youth mental health, support our men and women in uniform and add services for seniors, Francophones and Ontario’s Indigenous people.”
Across the government, there is $174 million in funding that includes: nearly $30 million for child and youth community mental health services and programs across Ontario to ensure earlier and faster mental health and addictions support in communities; more than $33 million for consumption treatment services sites in communities across the province. For those who are struggling with opioid and other drug addictions, these sites are an important first step towards treatment through new wraparound health and social services. This funding will also support addictions programs at the local level across Ontario; more than $15 million for more housing supports for people who are homeless and face mental health and addictions issues; more than $25 million to reduce wait times for community mental health programs, and services for priority populations, including Francophones; more than $27 million to fund mental health supports in Ontario’s education system, which will directly benefit schools, teachers and, most importantly, students and their parents; more than $18 million to support mental health and addictions supports in the justice sector, including direct support for corrections staff to address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health challenges. Additionally, the government is investing in mobile crisis intervention teams to help police officers and other first responders better assist people experiencing mental health crises; $1 million to support postsecondary institutions in partnering with community-based mental health and addictions services; more than $5 million for the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services to provide culturally appropriate mental health services and supports to Indigenous communities, including adults, families, children and youth. The government will invest another $7 million through the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to fund treatment centres and mental wellness programs, as well as mental health and addiction workers and coordinators for Ontario’s Indigenous communities; $12 million to help build additional hospital capacity with new inpatient mental health beds. These investments will directly help end hallway health care and ensure all Ontarians, including those struggling with mental health and addictions challenges, have faster access to the care they need in our province’s hospitals; and $250,000 for the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility to develop and deliver a seniors’ mental health educational initiative.
To ensure mental health and addictions service providers have stable, long-term support, the government will make this funding available every year. Further, the government will invest $3.8 billion over the next 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions strategy.