Every year, more than one million Ontarians experience a mental health or addictions challenge, which can have a serious impact on their quality of life, including the ability to go to school or make a living.
Following extensive consultations with experts, grassroots organizations, health care providers on the frontlines and first responders, as well as people with lived experience and their families and caregivers, the provincial government is launching Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System.
Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, were at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences to unveil the new roadmap, which provides a clear path forward toward offering Ontarians easier access to higher-quality care and supports in communities across the province.
“We know how important it is for Ontarians and their families to have access to high-quality services when and where they need them,” said Elliott. “By improving the availability and quality of mental health and addictions supports, and by better connecting Ontarians with these services, 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.”
The new Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence within Ontario Health will serve as the foundation on which Roadmap to Wellness is built. Historically, Ontario has had great success in building a world-class system of care, such as cancer care. The centre will be the coordinating, central provincial body that will leverage this experience to enable and drive the effective implementation of the plan’s four pillars: Improving quality; Expanding existing services; Implementing innovative solutions; and Improving access.
Taken together, along with a comprehensive wait times strategy, these pillars will help build a system that puts the patient at the centre of care and drives down unacceptably high wait times for services.
As part of the third pillar, implementing innovative solutions, Ontario will launch Mindability, a first-of-its-kind in Canada program that will provide evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy to equip Ontarians aged 10 and up with the lifelong skills they need to manage their mental health and overall well-being.
After receiving an assessment from a trained mental health clinician, an eligible individual will be offered a therapy program that addresses their level of need to support their recovery. The types of services available will include internet-based modules, personal workbooks, telephone coaching and clinical counseling, as well as face-to-face, group and individual therapy. Mindability will be funded just like OHIP with no out-of-pocket costs for patients. It will roll out starting in spring 2020 with further expansion planned in the fall.
“Our government continues to fulfill our promise of making mental health and addictions a priority,” Tibollo said. “Roadmap to Wellness moves us in the right direction toward building a comprehensive and connected mental health and addictions system that works for all Ontarians across the lifespan. This is a plan that is client-centred, data-driven and evidence-based. Most of all, it is a plan that will ensure that all Ontarians are able to access high-quality services and supports, where and when they need them.”
As part of the fourth pillar, improving access, any person living in Ontario will be able to call, text or go online to learn more or get help by using: one easy-to-remember and toll-free phone number accessible across the province; and an easy-to-use website with an online chat function and client resources.
Ontario is in the process of finalizing plans for the implementation of one number to call. As a first step, in spring 2020 a single number will provide streamlined access to Telehealth Ontario’s nine health information and advice programs. The province expects to begin expansion to include other services, including certain mental health services, in fall 2020, with phased expansion thereafter.
Ontarians will also have access to in-person mental health and addictions navigation support through regional access points established across Ontario and through their local Ontario Health Team, which will better integrate mental health and addictions supports between hospitals, primary care providers and community service providers.
Building on the extensive consultations that informed the development of Roadmap to Wellness, Ontario will continue to engage with system partners to help guide the effective implementation of this plan. As these long overdue improvements are made, Ontario will invest to fill urgent gaps in care to address the significant and debilitating wait times that currently exist in the system.
The government will invest $20 million in 2020 to launch Mindability. To enable Roadmap to Wellness, Ontario is investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to create new services and expand programs. The province has started to fill urgent gaps in care as identified by system partners through immediate investments, including $174 million more in annualized funding for mental health and addictions programs in 2019-20.