May 17th, 2022

Horwath’s NDP to double mental health supports in schools

PETERBOROUGH – If elected, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will double the funding for mental health staff and supports right in schools so kids always have someone to turn to.

“Together, we can make sure every child has a caring, qualified adult to turn to when something feels wrong,” said Horwath.

“So many parents have told me how hard the past two years have been on their little ones and teens. The learning disruptions and isolation has left kids to cope with with anxiety, and parents say they’re seeing personality changes and mood swings that worry them. But there’s hope — together, we can get kids back on track, and thriving.”

Horwath will invest $125 million more in mental health and well-being professionals and programming every year, as well as another $467 million over the next three years to hire more educational assistants from diverse backgrounds. School Mental Health Ontario demonstrates that for every $1 dollar invested in mental health in schools, between $6 and $16 is saved in public health costs.

Horwath’s Universal Mental Health Care plan for Ontario’s kids and schools includes:

  • Universal Mental Health Care, which means mental health support like counselling will be available with a health card, not a credit card.
  • Investing $130 million over the next three years to build intensive treatment and specialized consultation services, increase access to psychotherapy and counselling, family therapy, and scale 24-hour crisis support services to ensure children and youth experiencing a crisis have an alternative to going to the emergency department.
  • Investing $90 million annually to increase the number of regulated health workers and paraprofessionals in elementary and secondary schools such as counsellors, therapists, social workers, and child and youth workers to reduce wait times and improve access to mental health services.
  • Doubling the Mental Health and Wellbeing Grant for schools through a $250 million investment to increase the ratio of caring and compassionate staff in schools.
  • Dedicating $467 million over the next three years to support schools to hire more educational assistants from diverse backgrounds that represent the diversity of Ontario’s student population.
  • Implementing the Make Kids Count Action Plan to reduce the waitlist for children’s mental health to 30 days as laid out by the Children’s Health Coalition.
  • Creating a new position at all school boards to assess and improve the delivery of mental health care in Ontario’s schools.

Wait times and the number of young people waiting in line to access Ontario’s publicly provided mental health support is at an all-time high, with over 28,000 children and youth waiting up from 12,000 in 2017. An estimated 200,000 young people in Ontario with serious mental health needs have no access to services and treatments.

Universal Mental Health Care

  • Expand OHIP coverage to include universal mental health care, saving people an average of $200 per appointment.
  • Ensure public access to psychotherapy for all Ontarians.
  • Fund primary care doctors, nurses, community health care workers, and social workers to be trained in counselling and psychotherapy.
  • Introduce legislation that recognizes mental health is as important as physical health and ensures that mental health services are insured through OHIP, whether they are provided in a hospital or a community health centre.
  • Dramatically increase support for publicly delivered mental health care programs and resources.

Current state of children’s mental health care

  • According to an Ipsos survey, 59 per cent of parents reported persistent sadness and behavioural changes in their child throughout the pandemic, ranging from outbursts or extreme irritability to drastic changes in mood and difficulty sleeping.
  • Over the last decade, there has been a 71 per cent increase in the rate of child and youth mental hospitalizations and a 64 per cent increase in the rate of emergency room visits for children and youth. Funding for the sector, however, has dropped by almost 40 per cent in real terms over the past 25 years worsening wait times and quality of care.
  • According to a 2020 survey by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one in six students in Grades 7 to 12 had seriously considered suicide, with one in five experiencing critical psychological distress.
  • According to Children’s Mental Health Ontario, one in four parents have missed work to care for a child with anxiety, costing the Ontario economy over $420 million a year.
  • Ontario’s mental health system currently has severe inequities, gaps and services for marginalized populations, including Black, Indigenous and racialized people, 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, francophone and immigrant communities. Due to the inequities in health care, marginalized groups are more likely to experience poor mental health, and mental health conditions. Moreover, existing on the cross intersectionality of poverty, race and sexuality creates further unique experiences of inequity.