Algoma Family Services urges the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and also the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities to fund proposed Mental Health and Addictions Research and Training Institute.
Sault Ste. Marie, ON – The Algoma Family Services Board of Directors, at its Thursday meeting, passed a resolution urging the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and also the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities to fund the Mental Health and Addictions Research and Training Institute proposed by Algoma University, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Sault Area Hospital, and Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig who are leading a collaboration among regional partners to develop the Institute.
“We are following the City of Sault Ste. Marie City Council who passed a similar resolution on February 24th,” said, Pamela Ficociello, AFS Board President.
The current opioid poisoning crisis has highlighted the need for increased capacity to serve those with substance use disorders in Algoma. A recent Public Health report shows there were 26 opioid-related deaths in 2018, translating to a rate of 22.7 per 100,000 people, more than double the rate of Ontario at 9.7 deaths per 100,000 people. With respect to the number of annual hospitalizations for addictions or mental illness in Algoma, the rate is 553.9 per 100,000 people, which is triple the provincial rate of 184.3 per 100,000 people.
According to Ali Juma, Algoma Family Services CEO, “Our youth between 14 and 25 are more likely to experience a mental illness or substance use disorder than other people their age in the province.” One of the top recommendations identified in the 2019 Sault and Area Drug Strategy Report is to “Increase treatment capacity and expand access to the community-based mental health and substance use services for children and youth (age 14-25) …as we have a critical need for increased youth counsellors and treatment facilities such as youth withdrawal.” The challenge for community-based organizations like AFS is not only the financial resources to meet the demand for services, but also finding qualified staff. “This Institute will fill a critical need not only in our community but also the province if not the country in terms of providing leading-edge research and trained counsellors”, said Juma.
The proposal was initiated by the partners after Minister Romano’s encouragement to think from a wider scope with regards to a provincial solution for mental health and addiction challenges. The uniqueness of the proposal is the integration of Indigenous knowledge and western science in developing innovative treatment approaches. “If traditional treatment approaches worked, we would not be having this conversation, we would not be having this crisis”, said Juma.
Further to the advocacy of the Mayor and City Council for the Institute; the AFS resolution states the board will write to Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and also the Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, to request the approval of funding the proposed Institute.
The resolution also states correspondence of the resolution will be copied to MPPs across northeastern Ontario, the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario, the councils of Algoma municipalities and the four organizations that developed the proposal.
“We are losing too many people, specifically our young people to mental health challenges as well as substance use overdose and poisoning. I know our attention of late is on the Coronavirus, however, we have a “made in the Soo” option that will greatly assist in attending to our mental health and addictions crisis. This Institute can be a beacon of hope for all of Ontario and the country. I applaud the AFS Board for passing this resolution and their conviction as community members to the well-being of children and youth of the communities we serve”, said Juma.
Algoma Family Services is a multi-service agency providing specialized services including child and youth mental health and also addictions counselling.