Health Minister Reveals a New Mental Health and Addictions Strategy for Ontario

Today, Ontario’s Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, unveiled the government’s new mental health and addictions strategy. The new plan is intended to build a comprehensive mental health and addictions (MHA) system that connects people to the care they need, when and where they need it.

“A Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System” rests against the backdrop of a system that the Minister describes as one that has failed people with mental health and addictions challenges. The new strategy, which is rooted in consultations with communities across Ontario, is meant to address key challenges that the system is currently facing. Challenges include long wait times, little understanding of what services are available and where to find them, uneven service quality between providers and regions, fragmentation and poor coordination, lack of evidence-based funding, and absence of data which limits effective oversight and accountability.

This strategy rests on four key pillars:

  1. Improving quality
    Enhancing services across Ontario
  2. Expanding existing services
    Investing in priority areas
  3. Implementing innovative solutions
    Filling gaps in care
  4. Improving access
    A new provincial program and approach to navigation

What is the role of the new Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence within Ontario Health?

According to today’s announcement, the Centre of Excellence, which is modelled after Cancer Care Ontario (CCO), will enable and drive the effective implementation of the plan’s four pillars outlined above. Specifically, the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence will:

  • Establish a central point of accountability and oversight for mental health and addictions care;
  • Be responsible for standardizing and monitoring the quality and delivery of evidence-based services and clinical care across the province to provide a better and more consistent patient experience;
  • Create common performance indicators and shared infrastructure to disseminate evidence and set service expectations; and
  • Provide support and resources to Ontario Health Teams as they use the core services framework to connect patients to the different types of mental health and addictions care they need and help them navigate the complex system.

Key Roadmap to Wellness highlights

  • Ontario will develop a new core services framework. This framework will identify and define the core provincially-funded mental health and addictions services that will be made available over time to Ontarians, regardless of where they live. Core services will be defined and validated with input and collaboration from system partners, clinical researchers, people with lived experience and families.
  • Guided by the core services framework, Ontario will continue to invest in the expansion of priority programs, including in critical service gaps across the continuum of need from prevention to intensive and acute mental health and addictions services.
  • A whole-of-government approach will be critical to the success of this roadmap. As such, the Ministry of Health and the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence will continue to work closely and collaboratively with partner ministries to support and reinforce the many entry points to the system and the populations served.
  • In 2020, Ontario will launch Mindability, a program that provides access to evidence-based, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for people living with depression and anxiety. The Mindability program will be the first of its kind in Canada in terms of its scope, scale, focus on quality and public reporting on outcomes. Funded like OHIP, there will be no out-of-pocket costs for clients who participate in the program.
  • The province will establish one toll-free phone number that all Ontarians can call, regardless of geography, and an easy-to-use website with an online chat function and client resources.
  • Ontarians will have access to in-person mental health and addictions navigation support through regional access points established across Ontario. Working with local Ontario Health Teams, these regional access points will be responsible for helping people find the mental health and addictions services they need.

Source: Roadmap to wellness: a plan to build Ontario’s mental health and addictions system

The government’s anticipated timeline

Winter 2020

  • MHA plan announced.
  • With proclamation of the legislation, the new Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence within Ontario Health will be set up.

Spring 2020

  • More new MHA investments to support frontline services and enable plan.
  • Results for three pan-Canadian MHA indicators released as part of Ontario’s commitment to measure access to MHA services.
  • Mindability officially launches and includes access to additional CBT based tools and supports.

Fall 2020

  • Foundational work to confirm and define core MHA services across all levels of need, providing a tool for system planners to map services with a degree of clarity and precision not possible with existing data or tools.
  • Ontario expands Mindability, increasing access to therapy for those with anxiety and depression.

Winter 2021

  • Mindability pilots for children and youth in select regions.
  • Progress towards provincial data standards across child, youth and adult community mental health services so system quality and performance can start to be measured in a reliable and consistent way.

Spring 2021

  • Ministry of Health and Ontario Health funding decisions leverage core services evidence to build more equitable access to core services and address regional service needs.
  • A key performance indicator framework is defined, setting clear expectations for MHA service delivery across Ontario.

Source: Anticipated timeline for Ontario’s mental health and addictions strategy

Additional reading

Read the Government of Ontario’s press release here.

Learn about Ontario’s new plan for the mental health and addictions system here.

Watch the announcement and panel discussion here.