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Hands welcomes Ontario’s investment in Mental Health

Hands theFamilyHelpNetwork.ca is pleased that the Government of Ontario, Minister of Health, Christine Elliott and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibollo, are recognizing and prioritizing the mental health of children, youth and their families with the commitment of $147 million to address the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the mental health of Ontario’s families.

This one-time funding which was requested by Ontario’s leading mental health and addictions organizations and includes $30 million in targeted funding for child and youth mental health services, will  support community child and youth mental health providers to deliver essential mental health and addiction services in the face of  increased demand since the pandemic began.

“We are seeing a marked increase in demand for our child and youth mental health services. More individuals are accessing our virtual ‘walk-in’ clinics, and more complex concerns are surfacing in the clients we serve,” said Andrea Roberts, Hands CEO. “This funding will help Hands respond to the increase in demand.  The need for service is especially critical for kids with chronic or complex mental health issues and vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Kids are struggling right now and some are suicidal. This funding is vitally important for us to help as many kids as we can virtually or safely in-person.”

Hands, with Ontario’s community child and youth mental health providers, are addressing critical challenges to service delivery which are amplified due to the pandemic and continue to rise during the second wave of COVID-19 including workforce and staffing challenges, infection control measures and the need to expand its technology. CMHO data shows that since COVID-19, 59 per cent of parents have noted behavioural changes in their child, ranging from outbursts or extreme irritability to drastic changes in mood, behaviour or personality. Additionally, a report from the Ontario Caregiver Organization shows more than three-quarters (77%) of caregivers supporting someone with a mental health issue or addiction find it difficult to access mental health support for the person they are caring for due to COVID-19.

Hands quickly pivoted services to a virtual setting when the pandemic started to continue to support clients and families. With the COVID-19 pandemic now in its second wave in Ontario, Hands, as per the government’s directive, is continuing to prioritize virtual service wherever possible to help stem the community spread of the virus and to protect our clients, families, and employees. Hands also has safety measures in place and employees have received training in Infection Prevention and Control that allow the Agency to offer in-person service when a client has expressed an explicit need or where virtual service is difficult or impossible.

While Hands welcomes today’s increased funding toward one area of children’s health, the Agency will continue to advocate alongside its children’s healthcare partners for a meaningful and comprehensive response that addresses all health needs of Ontario’s children – mental, social, developmental, and physical health.

Hands and its sector partners look forward to continuing to work with the Ministry of Health on improving equity and access to high quality mental health care through the implementation of this one-time emergency funding and the Roadmap to Wellness strategy and corresponding $3.8 billion investment over ten years.