February 9, 2021, the government provided an update on the implementation of the High Priority Communities Strategy, first announced in December. Through this strategy, Ontario is providing targeted supports to 15 communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
The government announced a series of investments, including $7 million to improve access to mental health and addiction supports for post-secondary students, $6.2 million to create safe and affordable housing for Indigenous people in Orillia, and $4.5 million to help seniors stay connected with their communities during COVID-19.
Update on High Priority Communities Strategy
The Ontario government continues to implement its High Priority Communities Strategy, first announced in December, in order to provide targeted supports to 15 communities hit hardest by COVID-19.
The strategy invests $12.5 million in local lead agencies, to support partnership with Ontario Health, public health units, and municipalities, in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in high-risk neighbourhoods. The strategy also dedicates up to $42 million to create approximately 1,500 spaces in COVID-19 isolation centres to enable safe self-isolation.
To date, more than 160 Community Ambassadors have been engaged to deliver targeted outreach and communications to members of communities with a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Outreach includes providing contact information and details on financial and isolation supports in multiple languages.
The province is also working with local partners to offer mobile and pop-up clinics, and rapid testing in priority communities. To date, 184 testing sites have been opened, and nearly 9,800 personal protective equipment kits have been distributed to community members.
Increased Mental Health Funding for Post-Secondary Students
This morning, the Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano, announced an investment of $7 million to increase access to mental health and addiction supports for post-secondary students during COVID-19, in acknowledgment of the additional pressures that the pandemic has placed on these students.
Funding announced today will enhance supports for post-secondary students who are on-campus and virtual. This is part of the Ministry of Health’s $147 million investment in mental health supports as a result of COVID-19. Funding may also be used to address the needs of vulnerable and diverse groups, such as Indigenous students, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities.
Affordable Housing for Indigenous People
This morning, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, announced a $6.2 million investment, through the Social Services Relief Fund, to create safe and affordable housing for Indigenous people in Orillia. The funding will specifically support those who are at risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their current living conditions, including those experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.
Funding announced today will be used by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services and the Métis Nation of Ontario to acquire two innovative apartment buildings in Orillia. The buildings contain a total of 27 units and were built using repurposed shipping containers.
Investment to Keep Seniors Connected
The government also announced an investment of $4.5 million today, through the Seniors Community Grant Program, to support more than 180 community projects aimed at helping seniors stay connected with their communities from home during COVID-19.
Funding will help non-profit organizations, local services boards, and Indigenous groups develop programs by:
- Helping seniors receive support in their community, thereby reducing demand on acute and long-term care;
- Ensuring older adults are less at risk of neglect, abuse, and fraud;
- Making sure more seniors are connected, engaged, and not socially isolated; and
- Providing more opportunities for older adults to achieve greater financial security.