Ontario announced Thursday it is investing more than $12 million to immediately expand and enhance culturally-appropriate mental health and addictions services for Indigenous peoples, families and communities across the province, especially in the North.
The announcement came today from Health Minister Christine Elliott and Michael Tibollo, the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions at Queen's Park.
This funding is part of the $176 million being invested in the government's longer term mental health and addictions plan, Roadmap to Wellness. The plan is delivering high-quality care and building a modern, connected and comprehensive mental health and addictions system, said the ministry.
Tibolo told the news teleconference that it was exactly a year ago this week that the Roadmap to Wellness was first launched to offer better access to a higher level of care for all Ontarians. Since that time he has heard from several Indigenous leaders about the problems in their isolated communities.
"These conversations took place from downtown Toronto to Ontario's far North, including many remote Indigenous communities," said Tibollo.
"I remember hearing stories about the battles with addictions for years only to be faced with barriers to access high-quality and culturally-safe mental health and addictions supports close to home," he added. Tibollo said the struggles with addictions and mental health only seemed to get worse with the pandemic.
Among the spending promises the Ministry of Health is committing to, is $6.8 million to increase the capacity of Indigenous-led and community-based support programs directed toward young people in the justice system with mental health and substance-abuse issues.
Some of this money will also be used to recruit two community-based mental health and addiction liaisons to help Indigenous-led organizations better address the complex needs of Indigenous survivors of human trafficking.
The ministry also announced $1.4 million in enhanced community mental health and addictions services and programs in Indigenous-governed primary care teams;
An additional $1.4 million is promised to help address gaps and barriers that Indigenous students and their families experience in the school system.
Money will be spent to support educational retention and success by:
-Increasing funding to Indigenous Graduation Coaches to increase outreach and support during the summer months;
-Funding the development of culturally-appropriate cannabis training and resources for Indigenous students;
-Funding the development of a new strength-based initiative to support young Indigenous women and girls who have lived experience of violence, and/or who have witnessed violence in their families and communities; and
-Funding the implementation of the model for Trauma-Informed Schools as a system-wide model.
The ministry also committed to $1.3 million annually, over ten years, to support the creation and implementation of 11 new Social Emergency Manager positions in Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) and Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT#3) First Nation communities, which will build capacity around social emergency prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery efforts;
$1 million to expand the child and adolescent psychiatry program based in Thunder Bay, with satellite service locations across Northwestern Ontario; and $900,000 to support additional Indigenous focused mental health and addictions services and programs related to community safety and education.
"For far too long, Indigenous peoples and communities across Ontario have been faced with gaps and barriers to accessing effective mental health and addictions supports that meet their unique needs," said Tibollo.
"By expanding access for Indigenous communities to higher-quality and culturally appropriate mental health and addictions services, we're taking another important step in building a mental health and addictions system that fully supports people of all ages in their journey towards mental wellness."
Health Minister Elliott commented on the importance of expanding mental health services to all parts of the province.
"Now more than ever, it is critically important to ensure that everyone, including Indigenous communities, can access the safe and effective mental health and addictions services they deserve - when they need them and where they need them," said Elliott.
"Our government is committed to working with Indigenous communities and other health system partners to build a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions system that people from every corner of the province can access."