Premier Doug Ford visited the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) in Sudbury on Thursday to announce an additional $14.75 million in funding to increase access to mental health and addictions services across the province.
“We know this virus has had a wider impact,” Ford said. “It shows itself through isolation, burnout, Depression, and anxiety. Our front line workers are not immune. Our young people are not immune.
“Whether you work in a hospital in downtown Toronto or a long-term care home in Sudbury or live in a fly-in community in the Far North, I want all Ontarians to know that your mental health is as important as your physical health,” Ford said.
“Even though you may feel alone or helpless, we want you to know that we have your back. If you need someone to talk to, please reach out to some of the amazing mental health and addictions agencies in your local community. They are caring, compassionate, knowledgeable, and ready to help.”
Michael Tibollo, associate minister of Mental Health and Addictions; Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines; Martin Boucher, executive director of NISA; and Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger joined Ford to make the announcement.
The Support for People and Jobs Fund will provide the money, which will help community-based mental health and addictions programs meet increasing service demands during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Like many not-for-profit service organizations, the pandemic has come with a unique set of unforeseeable challenges. This has impacted our budget, but more importantly, it has impacted how much support our staff can provide and to whom,” said Boucher.
“Today’s announcement will help us mitigate some of those challenges and help us improve virtual service delivery for vulnerable individuals who are at home, and for those who can come through our doors, it will help us receive them safely by ensuring that we have the funds to provide the PPE and cleaning supplies that our staff needs.”
Of the total investment, $7 million will be used to safely expand in-person mental health and addictions services to bridge current gaps brought on by COVID-19, including community-based services, congregate living and supportive housing, and $3 million will go towards expanding virtual and online services, including addictions supports, internet-based CBT, and an online peer support community for mental health.
Additionally, $4.75 has been earmarked to support culturally safe services for Indigenous communities with a special focus on children and youth.
“We are funding incredible organizations: Kids Help Phone, Good2Talk for post-secondary students, BounceBack for adults and youth, and so many others,” Ford said. “These people are the best of the best. If you or a loved one is struggling right now, please go online or pick up the phone.”
The Ontario government is also investing $2.9 million in eight research projects that aim to support Ontario’s response to COVID-19.
The projects will focus on a wide variety of areas, such as supporting the mental health and well-being of families and children, assessing the long-term health effects of COVID-19, the development of an app to better manage the care of patients, and an evaluation of the effectiveness of wearing masks to block the virus.
“It’s clear that COVID-19 has presented us with many new health-care challenges. Since the start of the outbreak, Ontario has been a world leader in COVID-19 research. We’ve been instrumental in assisting in the global fight against this deadly virus,” said Tibollo, the associate minister.
“These research projects will focus on mental health, ventilation, imaging and transmission to support Ontario’s response to preventing, detecting, and treating COVID-19.”
With this funding, Ontario’s post-secondary and health-care institutions will be conducting extensive research that will help to inform the government on how to better support Ontarians during an outbreak of this current magnitude, he added.
“From assessing the impact COVID-19 has had on children’s daily lives and on psychological distress to researching how we can better treat COVID-19 survivors living with lung damage and respiratory failure, these groundbreaking research projects will help save lives not just in Ontario but around the world.”
The eight research projects were submitted through the Ontario Together portal. This is in addition to the 35 projects selected through the $20 million Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund.
Ontario has also partnered with the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to co-fund Ontario projects through the federal rapid research call on COVID-19 mental health and addictions.
“This is a very important announcement, not just for Greater Sudbury, but one that will have a positive impact provincewide,” Mayor Bigger said. “With the (funding) announced today, we are certain that our local mental health agencies and the hard-working tremendous staff and professionals who go to work every day to make our children, our youth, our families more healthy and safe will see immediate benefits from today’s news.
“The last six months have really showed how important the continuity of mental health care is and whether that’s in-person or online. This new funding will help Northern Ontario overcome issues like geography and distance that can so often deter those who need this important care from receiving it.”
By: Colleen Romaniuk, Sudbury Star, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.