Open Minds, Healthy Minds
Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy aims to “reduce the burden of mental illness and addictions by ensuring that all Ontarian’s have timely access to an integrated system of excellent, coordinated and efficient promotion, prevention, early intervention, community support and treatment programs” (Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, 2011, p 7). The over-arching goals of the Strategy include:
- To improve mental health and well-being for all Ontarian’s;
- To create healthy, resilient, inclusive communities;
- To identify mental health and addiction problems early and intervene; and
- To provide timely, high quality, integrated, person- directed health and human services.
The Strategy focuses on children and youth in the first three years, and is supported by several Ministries, including the leadership of the Ministry of Child and Youth Services (MCYS), Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) and Ministry of Education (MOE). There are three key target areas:
- Fast access to high-quality services;
- Early identification and support; and
- Help for vulnerable children and youth with unique needs.
The Strategy builds upon the foundational work of the MCYS Policy Framework, A Shared Responsibility, Ontario’s Framework for Child and Youth Mental Health, the related provincial mapping exercise, and the introduction of the Student Support Leadership Initiative.
The Ontario Ministry of Education has made several commitments in relation to the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. For example, there is a commitment to enhance the K-12 curriculum to feature student mental health and addictions, to provide a guide for educators in this area (Supporting Minds), and to support professional learning in school mental health. Funding to support the hiring of Mental Health Leaders to support board mental health strategy development and implementation across all boards is a critical contribution. School Mental Health ASSIST is also part of the EDU support for the Strategy.
The next phase of the Strategy will build on the first phase and expand to support the transition between youth and adult services, and to improve the quality of services for Ontarian’s of all ages who have mental illness and addictions. The next phase will be built on the five following foundational pillars.
- Promoting Mental Health and Well-being: Focus on proven programs to promote mental health in schools and workplace.
- Ensuring Early Identification and Intervention: Focus on using virtual applications to access services; expanding training, mentorship, and support programs led by service providers; expanding existing self-help and early intervention programs.
- Expanding Housing, Employment Supports and Diversion and Transitions from the Justice System: Focus on increasing supportive housing with focus on preventing homelessness; expanding workplace mental health programs; initiatives to reduce contact with justice system; improve transitions between police and emergency rooms.
- Providing the Right Care, at the Right Time, in the Right Place.
- Funding Based on Need and Quality: Focus on establishing a new funding model linked to population need, quality improvement and service integration.