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Barrie-area groups get $1.7 million for mental health, addiction services – But Ontario Health Coalition says this is actually a cut to funding for the sector

Posted: May 15, 2019

(May 10, 2019)

By: Chris Simon, Barrie Advance

Ontario budget

Barrie-area Progressive Conservative Party MPPs Doug Downey and Andrea Khanjin discuss the Ontario budget at Downey’s constituency office April 12. – Chris Simon/Metroland

The Ontario government is giving a financial boost to local mental-health services.

Six organizations will receive a total of $1.74 million for their efforts to treat mental health and addiction, Barrie-area MPPs Doug Downey and Andrea Khanjin announced May 6.

“I’ve spent many hours meeting with local organizations, speaking to constituents about their experiences and doing personal research on the opioid crisis and mental-health issues in my riding,” Downey said. “Our community has been very clear we need more accessible and sustainable support services to address the opioid crisis and mental-health issues. This investment is going to make a big impact, giving our front-line services the tools they need to serve our communities.”

Under the plan, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Simcoe County branch will get $1.01 million for opioid addiction treatment, early psychosis intervention and housing support, among other initiatives.

Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre receives $300,000 for opioid addiction services, New Path Youth and Family Services collects $259,432, and IOOF Seniors Homes gets $90,000 for a rent supplement program.

Community Addictions Services receives $70,000, and the County of Simcoe gets $5,060 for a rent supplement program.

But the Ontario Health Coalition notes the Ford government cut $330 million per year from mental-health funding last summer.

“The government announced mental-health funding that appears had previously been announced, and in any case is actually a cut to planned mental-health funding,” the group said in a press release. “This is being reported by the media as if it is an increase and as if it is new money without any critical analysis. From the government’s own numbers, we do not believe this is the case. The government … is now claiming that it is increasing mental-health funding by a one-time announcement. By anyone’s math, this is still a very significant reduction in planned mental-health funding and means that many needed services will not be provided.”

This is part of an additional $174-million investment to address the critical gaps in Ontario’s health-care system and to support patients and families living with mental-health and addictions challenges, Downey said.

The government held 19 consultations with mental-health and addiction-based community organizations and health-care providers. Ontario has committed to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to deal with these issues, he said.

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