In 2011, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) launched a comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy, Open Minds, Healthy Minds, which has been used to build up Northern Ontario’s mental health and addictions infrastructure. The strategy’s vision statement reads:
Every Ontarian enjoys good mental health and well-being throughout their lifetime, and all Ontarians with mental illness or addictions can recover and participate in welcoming, supportive communities.
Phase 2 began in November 2014, with the creation of the Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council. This council is a three-year advisory body and advises the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care on the implementation of Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. As part of their Phase 2, MOHLTC committed to a parallel Indigenous Engagement Process with partners from existing Indigenous Health Relationship Tables to identify priorities. Click here to view the council’s 20 members.
After the 2016 release of The Journey Together, MOHLTC partnered with Indigenous communities to expand mental-health services for Indigenous peoples in Ontario. In the one-year update, the province announced that it had spent $19 million over three years in new mental health and addictions supports and $18.6 million to establish new or expanded Indigenous Mental Health and Addictions Treatment and Healing Centres.
The Indigenous Mental Health and Addictions Treatment and Healing Centres are the product of a partnership between Indigenous organizations and MOHLTC, and they combine traditional healing and clinical care. In early 2017/18, MOHLTC will begin the process towards these new supports by launching a Request for Proposals for Mental Health and Addictions Programs and Services, as well as a targeted Call for Expressions of Interest concerning Treatment and Healing Centres.
These new mental health supports came mostly in the form of new mental health workers. The province has committed to one worker per community, including on reserve. Because the funding that comes with this commitment is proposal-based, it therefore varies by community and is responsive to the local context for First Nations.
Engagement with First Nation Communities & Next Steps
The MOHLTC Indigenous engagement process supports 10 Indigenous partners to carry out community engagement activities intended to identify mental health and addiction priorities, and ensure that the right culturally-appropriate investments will be made available both on- and off-reserve. In October 2016, the Council met with Indigenous partners to explore intersections of each’s work under the Strategy. The Council intends to use the platform of this report to call upon government to:
- Increase access to community-based, Indigenous designed, developed and delivered services.
- Ensure mainstream system transformation results in an improved, culturally safe service experience for Indigenous people and communities and that local service planning gives a greater role to First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners.
- Actively create and integrate Indigenous approaches to mental wellness and well-being that are holistic, inclusive of the whole family and address needs across the life span from a social determinants of health perspective.