Main entrance at Bluewater Health's Sarnia hospital. Photo by Meghan Bond.

Bluewater Health Applauds Increased Funding For Mental Health

Bluewater Health is welcoming a promise by Ontario’s Liberal government to spend $2.1-billion over the next four years to “rebuild” the province’s mental health system.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says the money will make services more accessible, ensuring people can find treatment through a local doctor’s office, school or community-based organization.

Vice-President of Mental Health and Addictions Paula Reaume-Zimmer says it’s great news for our community.

“Bluewater Health, along with our partners, we’ve been working very diligently on quality improvement initiatives,” says Reaume-Zimmer. “For example, we have been successful in recruiting two new psychiatrists within the last three months, we have initiated an ECT [electroconvulsive therapy] program and we have opened the seven withdrawal management beds. The temporary model.”

The plan would provide access to service for 12,000 more young people in 2018-2019 and add an additional mental health worker in every secondary school in the province.

Access to publicly funded psychotherapy would also be increased for up to 350,000 more people with mild to moderate anxiety or depression.

“We know that 50% of our patients admitted, actually haven’t had access to community mental health resources within a year,” says Reaume-Zimmer. “So, investing in community and counselling therapy is an important intervention that can actually eliminate, or at least reduce, the long-term effects of mental health care.”

The province says it will also expand access to withdrawal management and residential and community treatment services for young people and adults with addictions.

An additional $570-million will be invested over the next four years so that young people can access the supports they need.

Reaume-Zimmer says they continue to work closely with the health ministry to secure funding for an $8.8-million 24-bed residential withdrawal management facility and have narrowed a list of potential sites down to three.

Premier Wynne is calling the funding commitment the biggest single investment in mental health care in Canadian history.

It will be included in the provincial budget when it’s tabled March 28.