Health care workers are sounding off about the provincial government’s $174-million funding announcement for mental health and addiction services in Ontario.
More than $1.6 million of that will go to organizations in Hamilton, according to Flamborough-Glanbrook MPP Donna Skelly.
“Mental health is a big issue in the city of Hamilton, and part of that is a lack of access to affordable housing,” said Skelly, adding that it’s the first step in the government’s decade-long plan for mental health services. “It’s not going to solve everything tomorrow, but it is just the beginning.”
The Ontario Health Coalition has criticized the government’s funding announcement, calling it a “cut” and saying the PC government is spending less on mental health services overall than the previous Liberal government.
Skelly said she disagrees with that assertion and called this the first step in a “very significant injection of funds into wraparound services for mental health care,” culminating in $3.8 billion over a 10-year period.
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The announcement comes as the Canadian Mental Health Association recognizes Mental Health Week for the 68th year. It aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and address misconceptions about mental illness.
Sue Phipps, executive director of the CMHA’s Hamilton branch, said the organization will be receiving more than $306,000 for supportive housing services in the city. She highlighted housing as one of the main challenges people with mental illnesses face in Hamilton, along with wait times and co-ordination of services.
“We do know that housing is critical to people being well,” said Phipps. “It’s like an anchor for their life, a place to call home. They have a better quality of life and success, and education and work. And it does improve outcomes, even for the most severe mental illness and addiction problems.”
CMHA Hamilton is one of 11 different organizations in Hamilton that will receive a portion of the $1.6 million. Skelly said a large portion of the funding is being specifically directed toward programs that provide mental health support services for children and teenagers.
Phipps said that in her experience as a registered nurse in Hamilton and a front-line worker in the city’s health care system, early intervention is key.
“Although we serve people 16 and up, and we see them more in the adult phase of their life, where maybe their illness has been continuing on since childhood, we do know that outcomes are so much better when people have their mental health problems addressed early.”
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