Ontario Expanding Mental Health and Addictions Supports for Frontline Health Care Workers
Protecting our Progress by Improving Access to Supports and Services
November 09, 2021
Ministry of Health
BRAMPTON ― As part of the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Build Ontario, the Ontario government is investing $12.4 million over two years to provide existing and expanded mental health and addictions supports for all frontline health care workers across the province. This investment will protect our progress in the fight against COVID-19 by supporting the workforce of the acute care, long-term care, and home and community care sectors in their efforts to provide high-quality care and service to patients, long-term care residents, and clients.
“Ontario’s frontline health care workers have been unwavering in their dedication to protect the health and safety of Ontarians throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and just as they are there for us, we need to be there for them,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “To protect the progress the people of Ontario have made against COVID‑19, our government is ensuring that health care workers have access to the supports they need to ensure their mental wellness and address the impact of the pandemic.”
The COVID‑19 pandemic has had a significant impact on frontline health care workers’ mental health. This funding will provide continued rapid access to the following expanded or new treatment options and supports specifically for this workforce:
- $5.9 million for a suite of mental health and addictions services for frontline health care workers through a number of hospitals, including self-referral and intake services, weekly online peer discussion groups, and access to confidential support from a clinician.
- $1.9 million for increased access to clinical psychologists specializing in trauma, mood, and anxiety disorders and other psychological conditions through the COVID-19 Psychological Support program.
- $4.6 million for workplace mental health training to provide frontline health care workers and workplaces with the tools to foster mental wellness, including training for management and leadership, frontline health care workers and non-clinical staff.
The government is partnering with five hospitals, the Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division, and the Ontario Psychological Association to offer these mental health and addictions supports.
“Throughout the pandemic, our government has ensured that our frontline health care heroes had the resources they needed to confront this threat. However, the pandemic has had and continues to have serious impact on the wellbeing of so many of our frontline health care workers,” said Peter Bethlenfalvy, Minister of Finance. “That is why our 2021 Fall Economic Statement included additional funding to help provide the mental health supports they need, so they can continue to provide high-quality care and services.”
This expands and builds on prior COVID-19 investments to support emergency funding for mental health services to support the health workforce. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020-21 the province invested up to $194 million in one-time emergency funding for mental health and addictions services. Ontario has also invested $23.6 million to support internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which has been accessed by over 68,900 Ontarians since the province launched this program during the COVID-19 pandemic, including over 9,800 health and long-term care workers care workers and $2.5 million in Breaking Free Online, an innovative therapy tool that makes it faster and easier for Ontarians to access safe and effective addictions supports.
“Despite the many dangers and stress caused by this pandemic, our frontline heroes have made, and continue to make very real and personal sacrifices to protect us, our loved ones and our entire province,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This much-needed investment will help to protect our progress by ensuring more health and long-term care workers across the province have faster access to the high-quality mental health and addictions care they expect and deserve.”
Through these measures, the government is also taking action to address the recommendations included in Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID‑19 Commission Report to ensure long-term care staff receive the mental health supports they need.
“Our government has a plan to protect the progress we have made against COVID-19 and fix long-term care in Ontario.” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Long-Term Care. “Improving staffing and therefore care is a key part of our plan, and today’s investment will help ensure that long-term care staff have access to much-needed mental health supports.”
On November 4, the government released the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Build Ontario. The plan lays out how the government will build the foundation for Ontario’s recovery and prosperity by getting shovels in the ground on critical infrastructure, attracting increased investment, restoring leadership in auto manufacturing and other industries, and supporting Ontario workers. The plan also protects Ontario’s progress against the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Health care workers from anywhere across Ontario can access services confidentially by going directly to a partner organization or via the Ontario Supports for People website.
- Ontarians can register at www.breakingfreeonline.ca and have free access to programming and resources for two years. Mental health and addictions service providers, such as counselors and therapists, can also register their patients for this service to complement their addiction treatment program.
- The 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Build Ontario is the government’s seventh financial update since the pandemic began, highlighting the government’s commitment to providing regular updates on Ontario’s finances, even during this uncertain economic period. It is part of the government’s plan for recovery driven by economic growth.
- To strengthen the health care and long-term care workforce, Ontario is also investing $342 million, beginning in 2021–22, to add over 5,000 new and upskilled registered nurses and registered practical nurses as well as 8,000 personal support workers. In addition, Ontario is investing $57.6 million, beginning in 2022–23, to hire 225 nurse practitioners in the long-term care sector. The government is also providing up to $13.1 million in continuing professional development support through the Nursing Education Initiatives.
- Visit COVID-19: Support for People to find more information about many publicly available and confidential mental health and addictions services and supports for Ontarians of all ages.
- The Ontario government will also provide up to $270 million this year to long-term care homes to increase staffing levels by 4,050 new long-term care staff across the province, leading to more direct care for residents. This funding also includes $42.8 million to homes to increase care by allied health care professionals that are key to ensuring quality care for residents (such as physiotherapists and social workers), by 10 per cent this year. This is part of the province’s $4.9 billion commitment to hire more than 27,000 long-term care staff over four years and ensure that residents receive on average four hours of direct care per day by 2024-25.
"Our colleagues across health care have tirelessly come to the aid of Ontarians throughout the pandemic for the last 20 months. But we know many of them are now dealing with burnout and stress which is why this government investment is so important. It allows us to provide much-needed help to our front-line workers."
- Camille Quenneville
CEO, CMHA Ontario
"We have seen how our local health care partners have battled through COVID-19 and we’ve been there to help them through it. But with this funding, CMHA branches like ours will have the opportunity to provide deeper, tailored supports to help them address mental health or addictions challenges they may be experiencing."
- David Smith
CEO, CMHA Peel Dufferin
"On behalf of the Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario representing Respiratory Therapists across the province, I want to express our gratitude to the Ontario Government for recognizing the integral role we play in our health care system by providing us with specialized psychological support services. Respiratory Therapists have been on the frontlines in the face of the coronavirus caring for and treating people suffering and dying from COVID-19. Despite the challenges faced the past 20 months, Respiratory Therapists continue to show up for work taking on extra shifts to provide the best care possible for patients. Unfortunately, this has been at the expense of our own mental wellness. With this new mental health program providing up to eight virtual sessions with a psychologist, Respiratory Therapists can process what they have gone through and continue supporting Ontario patients."
- Renata Rea
President, Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario
"COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll, physically and emotionally, on our nursing community. Today’s announcement is very good news for all frontline health care workers who selflessly tended to the needs of people in their care, sometimes at the expense of their own well-being. At WeRPN, we believe these new investments will bring much-needed support to help restore the resilient spirit of Ontario RPNs, the second largest group of regulated health professionals in our health care system."
- Dianne Martin
"The Ontario Psychological Association (OPA) is proud to work with the Ontario government to support the psychological health and wellbeing of Ontario’s essential frontline healthcare workers. These people have been exposed to unprecedented levels of stress and loss during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have risked their own health and family’s health to sustain essential services. For many, this has resulted in symptoms of burnout, anxiety, depression, guilt, irritability, avoidance, sleep disturbance, PTSD, as well as unhealthy coping mechanisms. The OPA will continue to work tirelessly to provide barrier-free access to psychological services that aim to match essential frontline workers to appropriate mental health care in this time of need."
- Richard Morrison
CEO, Ontario Psychological Association
"Many Ontarians have reported experiencing mental health and addiction challenges, with the pandemic taking a devastating toll on frontline health care workers, including mental health and addiction workers. It is critical that during this challenging time we ensure there are supports and services available for our frontline workers. This investment will help ensure that when health care workers reach out for help, help is there."
- Katie Heelis
Interim CEO, Addictions and Mental Health Ontario
Minister Elliott’s Office