Investments Will Increase Access to Mental Health and Justice Service Programs
Thunder Bay — The Ontario Government’s Associate Minister responsible for Mental Health and Addictions, Micheal Tibollo states, “Whether you live in the Greater Toronto Area or Ontario’s far north, our government continues to ensure that we protect the brave women and men on the frontlines, and ensure they have access to the supports they need, when and where they need them. By significantly expanding access to services across Ontario’s justice sector, we are providing the right services to help keep our communities safe.”
In an interview with NetNewsLedger, the Minister outlines key components of the plan unveiled at Queens Park on November 17, 2020 at a press conference at Queen’s Park.
Ontario is providing over $37 million to significantly expand mental health services across the justice system.
The Minister told NetNewsLedger that this program is a start toward success, and that coming out in the middle of the pandemic is a demonstration of the urgency of the need for better mental health support.
The funding will be used to expand mobile crisis teams across the province, hire additional staff, and support the creation of tailored programs for First Nations communities. This is part of the government’s $176 million investment this year in the Roadmap to Wellness, Ontario’s plan to build a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions system. It is also a key component of Ontario’s Action Plan: Protect, Support, Recover.
“Ontario’s police officers respond to tens of thousands of mental health calls a year and we need to make sure they have the right training, as well as extra support from professional mental health workers to respond to these calls, and save lives,” says Premier Ford. “Expanding our mobile crisis services will help those in crisis get the mental health supports they need, while ensuring our police and their community partners can work more effectively together and stay safe while handling these types of calls.”
“Our government is working collaboratively across all sectors to provide long-term stability to our mental health and addictions system, including our justice system,” said Minister Elliott. “We are making it a priority to ensure that all Ontarians who need more mental health and addictions support, have access to the high-quality services and supports they need.”
The impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, including prolonged physical distancing, financial uncertainty, and being constantly inundated with new information about the virus, have caused many Ontarians to experience a range of mental health and addictions challenges, which has led to an increase in the demand for services and supports. As part of the $176 million investment, the province is providing mental health and justice services that will lead to better supports for individuals with mental health and addictions challenges, including help to reduce their interactions with police. This includes:
- Over $6.5 million for mobile crisis services. This funding will allow 33 communities across the province to expand or launch mobile crisis response services, including a brand-new service in Ottawa, a new Indigenous service in Six Nations of the Grand River, and additional teams in smaller communities in the Northwest, such as Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Atikokan, Fort William First Nation and the surrounding area of Marathon. These services support individuals in mental health and addictions crisis and help determine if the crisis can be resolved at the scene or if further supports, such as psychiatric attention at hospital emergency departments, are required;
- $5 million for safe bed programs to support mobile crisis teams. This funding will enhance four existing programs while implementing seven new programs across Ontario, including two urban safe bed programs in downtown Toronto and Ottawa. Safe bed programs provide individuals in mental health and addictions crisis who are in contact with mobile crisis teams with short-stay, 24/7 community residential crisis services. The mobile crisis teams assist local police services in de-escalating high-pressure situations, and connect individuals with the mental health and addictions services they need;
- Over $14 million for supportive housing programs designated for justice involved individuals. This will fund up to 524 new units across the province for individuals who are either on diversion plans from mental health court or have been released from a provincial correctional facility, including $1.03 million for up to 20 units that are affiliated with five new post-court transitional case managers. Transitional case managers will also provide support to individuals involved in the justice system with mental health and/or addictions challenges to rapidly access services, such as counselling, therapy and peer suppor t, so that they can live safely in the community;
- $2 million for addictions/withdrawal specialists to support safe beds. This funding will provide eight communities with addiction specialists for their safe bed programs, as well as addiction specialist support for the Kenora and Toronto Downtown East Justice Centre pilots;
- $4 million for enhanced addictions programming within adult correctional institutions. This funding will provide substance use and addictions training and resources for health care and operational staff as well as support the hiring of additional specialized positions;
- $2 million for mental health and addictions peer support for offenders under community supervision. This funding will help establish partnerships with local community-based mental health and addictions service providers and Indigenous organizations;
- $2.25 million for a corrections peer support progra m. This program will offer all corrections employees (including retirees and those on leave) who are experiencing distress of any kind, with non-clinical support for personal and workplace issues; and
- $1.1 million for mental health and addiction supports to vulnerable and marginalized persons as part of the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Justice Centres. Investments will provide critical mental health and addictions supports to prevent crime, break the cycle of offending and create safer communities in Kenora, London, Toronto’s Downtown East and Toronto’s Northwest areas. These investments will also enhance access to culturally-relevant mental health and addictions services for Indigenous and Black communities.
In addition, Ontario continues to build strong evidence-based research on post-traumatic stress disorder and occupational stress injury ― two common mental health challenges affecting Ontario’s frontline heroes. These f indings will help identify new tools and programs to support the mental health and well-being of these brave women and men, as well as other public safety personnel.
“The mental health and well-being of Ontarians are important priorities for our government,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “This new investment advances our commitment to strengthen mental health services across the justice system and ensure essential supports are available to frontline workers and the communities they serve.”
“Our government’s investments to expand access to mental health and addictions services will help build a justice system that supports the growth of safer communities,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “We are working with local partners to establish innovative ways of keeping communities safe by providing more seamless access to health, mental health, addictions, housing and employment supports.”