Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott is expected to announce a $20-million boost Tuesday for cognitive behaviour therapy to help those suffering from anxiety, depression and other disorders.
Elliott is scheduled to provide details on a program that she says is unique in Canada — one aimed at providing free mental health therapy in person, online and over the phone for adults and children over the age of 10.
“Ontario will unveil our new plan to build a comprehensive mental health and addictions system that connects people to the care they need, when and where they need it — including Mindability: a first-of-its-kind program in Canada to deliver cognitive behavioural therapy.” said Elliott in a tweet.
The investment Elliott is to announce is part of the $3.8 billion previously announced by the Ontario government for mental health and addiction services over the next decade.
It’s expected the $20 million will be used to expand psychotherapy pilot projects now operating out of four Ontario mental-health facilities: Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, The Royal in Ottawa and Penetanguishene’s Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care.
“It is something that is badly needed,” said Karim Mamdani, president and CEO of the Ontario Shores Centre.
“This is the first time something like this is being offered as a publicly funded program. Often people deny themselves access to mental health therapy because of a cost barrier.”
The goal is to provide cognitive behaviour therapy, or talk therapy, to 80,000 people with depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorders and other issues when the program is fully implemented over the next decade.
The health ministry also plans to create an 811 number people can call to get help for mental health issues.
Mamdani says the funding is a good first step, but won’t be enough to cover the entire province.
“It will ensure the services that are currently provided at the four pilot project centres will continue to be delivered, but we will have to figure out the scope and spread over time.”
Ontario Shores receives about $5 million a year to run the pilot project, which serves over 2,300 people.
The talk therapy program also includes a pilot for children and youth to begin 2021.
For Kim Moran, the CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, the plan falls short.
“It doesn’t at all address the inequity in services. And only addresses one form of treatment that kids and families need right now,” Moran said, adding that 28,000 children and youth are now waiting for mental health services.
She says a much larger investment in front-line professionals could help clear the backlog.
“The wait for a child that needs mental health care is at an all-time high,” said Moran.