Initiative aims to give Ontarians easier access to services
The provincial government has announced a new mental health initiative aimed at tackling the ongoing concern of Ontarians facing depression and anxiety.
On March 3, Christine Elliott, Ontario’s minister of health, announced a new program, Mindability, at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ont.
Once in full effect, the program will provide support to Ontarians over the age of 10 with cognitive behavioural therapy, which is intended to give them a base of skills and techniques to manage their mental health going forward. Incoming patients will be able to sign up via phone, text message or online. After an initial assessment, they’ll be offered a program catered to their needs, which includes services like clinical counselling, group therapy and online modules. The goal is to treat 80,000 patients each year over three to four years.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of short-term psychotherapy, and focuses on the present. The form of therapy “helps people to examine how they make sense of what is happening around them and how these perceptions affect the way they feel,” according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
Mindability is included in the government’s Roadmap to Wellness plan, an overarching initiative to build a connected and inclusive mental health and addiction system to provide Ontarians easier access to high-quality care. The goal with Roadmap is to “provide a clear path forward” and offer communities easier access to high quality care and support across the province.
“This new roadmap will help us build healthier communities by alleviating growing pressures on our hospitals and, in doing so, significantly support our goal of ending hallway health care,” Elliott told NOW Magazine.
Mental health care providers said there are positives in the Roadmap to Wellness plan, but it needs to be properly funded.
In a statement given on Tuesday, mental health organizations including CAMH and Children’s Mental Health of Ontario (CMHO) said they commend the government’s new effort but in order for a significant reduction in wait times, the program should address long-term mental health issues and youth with complex needs. “A 12-year-old with suicidal ideation needing intensive mental health services can’t wait for two years,” the statement said.
That’s a reference to a just-released CMHO report which revealed the average wait time for mental health services is two and a half years, and 28,000 children and youth are currently in need of the services.
They estimated $380 million in additional annual funding will be needed for Mindability and the Roadmap to Wellness plan to achieve its maximum potential and include prompt mental health services. “Investments in expansion of front-line services must be a priority, particularly at this time when hospitals are strained and the community sector is struggling with extremely long wait lists.”
Mindability will be in effect starting in the spring, but there is no official date announced for its launch.