The Province of Ontario is providing $12 million to online mental health services for residents and frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said to improve access, the province is immediately expanding online and virtual mental health supports.
“Dealing with an evolving crisis like COVID-19 puts a lot of stress on everyone, including people who are self-isolating, families with kids out of school, and the frontline health care workers and first responders who are keeping us safe each and every day,” Ford said.
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“This very difficult situation will impact different people in different ways, but I can assure everyone we will be there to support you and help you cope in every way we can. Clearly, protecting our health and well-being is everything, and that includes our mental health.”
These services will help people experiencing anxiety, stress and other mental health challenges, including people who are unable to access their regular in-person counselling supports.
With this investment, mental health agencies will receive emergency funding to hire and train more staff and purchase necessary equipment, appropriate technology, and additional licences.
According to the province, the emergency funding will immediately expand services, based on evidence-informed cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), on a range of platforms including:
- BounceBack: A guided self-help program for adults and youth aged 15 and over using workbooks with online videos and phone coaching support.
- Kids Help Phone: 24/7 virtual support service offering professional counselling, information and referrals as well as volunteer-led, text-based support to young people in both English and French at 1-800-668-6868.
- Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT): Online CBT , supported by therapists; available in English and French.
- iCBT for frontline health care workers: Online CBT targeted at frontline health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout or PTSD. Those requiring intensive levels of care could be referred to virtual face-to-face care.
- Training for Brief CBT-based interventions: Training will be provided to frontline workers in organizations such as Telehealth and emergency departments in order to better support individuals experiencing acute anxiety due to the pandemic.
Ontario will also be hiring additional mental health workers by putting forth $2.6 million to support Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) personnel.
“It’s never been more important for Ontarians to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health said. “As they do, we need to provide them with the supports they need to stay mentally healthy during these challenging times as more Ontarians experience heightened anxiety and depression.”
This funding is in line with Ontario’s continued financial aid being offered across all sectors since the coronavirus pandemic began.
On Wednesday, the provincial government announced $50 million in funding to help businesses provide innovative solutions or retool their operations in order to manufacture essential medical supplies for frontline workers.
The money will go towards the Ontario Together Fund which will bring together businesses from across the industry to create new medical gear like gowns, coveralls, masks, face shields, testing equipment, and ventilators.
The recent funding comes after the $17 billion aid package for all sectors in Ontario with an additional $3.3 billion announced on March 26, for the healthcare sector.
The action plan includes $7 billion in additional resources for the health care system and direct support for people and jobs.
The province said it also will make available $10 billion in support for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals to improve their cash flow, protecting jobs and household budgets.