News Room


Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Expansion Announcement


Date/Time: November 25, 2014 time 9:15 am

Location: LOFT Supportive Housing, Toronto

Thank you for that kind introduction.

It's a pleasure to be here along with my cabinet colleague Tracy MacCharles to make an important announcement about the next phase of our 10 year comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

Today we are grateful to be hosted by LOFT Community Services.

Housing is a very important part of our strategy - you may be familiar with the Housing First model, where supportive housing plays a foundational role both in treating mental health and addictions challenges, but also in helping to ensure that everyone regardless of the challenges they face, are an integral part of the community.

Here at LOFT, we have a place for people to get their lives back, to be part of a community, to have access to care and support, and most importantly a place to call home.

We sincerely thank everyone who works with LOFT for hosting us today, and for the wonderful work you do for your community.

As a health care professional, I have seen first-hand the toll that mental illness and addictions can take not just on the individual, but on their families, their friends and the community.

I recently learned about a young man whose mental health issues emerged when he 17, and worsened when he went to university.

He was picked up by police and was hospitalized. His family felt lost between the justice system and the health care system.

I'm proud to say that we have made a lot of progress over the past three years for people like this young man. And Tracy will speak in a moment about what we've accomplished over those three years. I also want to recognize the enormous contributions of Minister Deb Matthews, not just in launching the strategy three years ago, but in ensuring that mental health remains at the forefront of the work she is continuing to do through the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Mental health - and ensuring that all Ontarians have access to the support they need to lead healthy lives - is a priority for our government. Today, I am proud to announce our government's second phase of our comprehensive Mental Health Strategy, Open Minds, Healthy Minds.

Fifteen ministries have come together to develop Phase II of this strategy. This strategy will build on the success of Phase I and turn our focus towards addressing the gaps that still remain in our mental health and addictions system. We are expanding the strategy in Phase 2 to include the adult mental health and addictions system. A particular focus of the second phase is to address linkages between the two systems: too many young people are getting lost in the transition between adolescence and adulthood, as they transition to new service providers, as they work to finish school and find a job.

There can be no single point of access for those seeking support to cope and treat their mental health challenges - there must be "no wrong door." Whether it is through their family physician, community mental health or addictions agency, or at their school or place of work - every partner must be equipped.

The time to expand our strategy is now - because I truly believe that this one of the most important social justice issues of our time. We have the will, the knowledge, and the unique opportunity to truly transform how we care for people with mental illness and addictions.

Mental health, like cancer or other rampant chronic diseases, affect all Ontarians - although only 20% of people in Ontario will experience a mental illness or addiction at some point of their lives - the toll of mental health on the friends, families and caregivers who support those suffering touches all of us.

We must cease to think of mental health and addictions as healthcare issues. They affect our economy, our education system and our penal system. To tackle poor mental health and addictions we, as a government and society, must come together.

When someone has a mental illness or an addiction, their story isn't just about the health care system - and so our plan can't be just about health, either.

This plan asks all sectors with a stake in mental health and addictions to take responsibility for meeting this challenge.

It's a plan that will provide better access, better quality, and better value.

And it's a plan that helps us in our other priorities - including the Action Plan for Health Care, Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy, Long Term Affordable Housing, and Student Success.

Phase II of our government's Mental Health Strategy is framed by five priorities. These five priorities will focus our efforts to bring real change for all Ontarians:

And to make sure that we deliver on these priorities I am proud to announce a new Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council comprised of experts from the mental health sector and community.

Leadership Council

The Council will advise on the strategy's progress, priorities and investments for a three year term. I am pleased to announce that Susan Pigott has agreed to Chair this council, and we will be hearing from her shortly.

A full list of the Council's membership will be shared with you following the announcement but I am pleased to announce and recognize some of the Council's members who are here with us today.

Council members include leaders from across different sectors that serve people with mental health or addictions issues - and most importantly, they include people who have lived through their own mental health and addiction challenges.

I look forward to working with Susan and the Council to deliver on this strategy as we implement the strategy's five pillars.

The first is to promote resiliency and well-being in all Ontarians.

We recognize mental health and addictions can be lifelong issues. We need to reduce risks and stigma, and help people live productive lives.

We have already funded Mental Health Leaders in all 72 School Boards, and launched Good2Talk, a bilingual, province-wide mental health helpline that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The helpline is already serving about 1,000 students a month.

In Phase 2 we will build on this, using the provinces' public health units to do more to fight stigma and promote mental health in schools and in the workplace.

The second priority is early identification and intervention.

We will equip Ontarians with the tools to be proactive in helping themselves using new virtual applications.

We will equip service providers with virtual and in-person training programs, supports, and mentorships to ensure that they can more effectively get Ontarians the help they need when they need it. This includes primary care, housing, justice, Aboriginal and First Nations sectors.

The third priority is to expand housing, employment supports, and working with the justice system to help divert and transition people who should not be there.

We will invest $16M over the next three years and work with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to create 1,000 new supportive housing units for people with mental illness and addictions who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. This is a core component of our Poverty Reduction Strategy as we work to eliminate homelessness across Ontario. It also recognizes the substantial research that has shown that housing is an indispensable part of treatment.

We will provide leadership in workplace mental health by investing in and expanding workplace mental health programs.

We will work with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to reduce the time it's taking to transition people with mental illness from police custody to the health care system, and hire new mental health nurses in corrections facilities.

The fourth priority is Right Service, Right Place, Right Time.

This year, we began our investment of $20M over the next six years in the Medical Psychiatry Alliance, which will help up to half a million people with both physical and mental illness get the comprehensive care and treatment they need.

Today, I am proud to announce a new $2.75M project to improve access to mental health care and reduce wait times at our four speciality psychiatric hospitals: CAMH in Toronto, Waypoint in Penetanguishene, the Royal Ottawa Hospital, and Ontario Shores in Whitby. In addition to improving access, this initiative will bring greater accountability to the mental health sector through public reporting on wait times. This will help inform patients and empower them to make the best decisions available for their care - something I am deeply committed to as health minister.

The fifth and final priority is to fund based on need and quality.

To truly transform how we deliver services to people with mental illness and addictions, we need to shift to a system that measures and delivers value. We are modernizing our funding model so our health care dollars go to where they are needed most, and where they support and drive the highest quality services.

To support our plan, we are making new investments of over $65 million in the next fiscal year, growing to about $83 million annually by 2017.

By 2017, we will have increased funding for mental health and addictions by a total of $172M since the launching the Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy in 2011.

I have tasked the Leadership Council to work in concert with the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, which will develop a balanced scorecard for Phase 2, similar to the landmark scorecard it released on the children and youth sector in March, 2015. The purpose of the scorecard is to measure the impact of our funding and how well the system is performing.

So that is our plan - it is our plan to seize this opportunity. Our plan is ambitious, and it recognizes the urgency we all feel in improving our system, improving access, and ultimately, improving lives.

Working together, we can make sure people with mental illness or addictions do not get lost in the transition between services.

We can make sure students get the support they need to finish school, get a job and have a stable place to live.

We can make sure people get the care and services they need in the community and don't get their mental illness identified in the emergency room or the justice system.

We will work in partnership - always in partnership - with our diverse and talented mental health sector, but also with the people whose lived experience can only make our work stronger.

Thank you.

For More Information

If you are a reporter with a question for a story, or with comments about how this News Room section could serve you better, send us an e-mail at:

Media Line
Toll-free: 1-888-414-4774
In Toronto: 416-314-6197

Public Inquiries
Call ServiceOntario, Infoline
at 1-866-532-3161
TTY 1-800-387-5559.
In Toronto, TTY 416-327-4282
Hours of operation : 8:30am - 5:00pm