October 21, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott announced an investment of $24.3 million for specialized mental health services for children and youth. This investment will allow for hiring of additional staff, increased access to counselling and therapy, and for the creation of new programs to help manage stress, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Premier Ford and Minister Elliott were joined by Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues.
Yesterday, the Ontario government also introduced the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, to protect workers, volunteers, and organizations who make honest efforts to follow COVID-19 public health guidelines and laws.
Expansion of Mental Health Services for Children and Youth
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott announced targeted investments totalling $24.3 million for community-based mental health supports and services for children and youth. This announcement acknowledges the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental wellbeing of Ontarians, particularly for children and youth experiencing isolation.
The investment will be broken down as follows:
- $11 million for over 80 children and youth mental health service providers to enhance capacity and access to frontline child and youth mental health services;
- $5.8 million for youth wellness teams at 10 Youth Wellness Hubs across Ontario, which offer walk-in access to primary care and mental health and addictions services for people between the ages of 12 and 25;
- $3.7 million for a new eating disorders program to help prevent eating disorders and support children and youth that may be struggling with an eating disorder;
- $2 million for the implementation of an Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program for families, children and youth;
- $1 million for child and youth mental health services delivered in congregate settings;
- $800,000 to support the creation and operation of Eating Disorders Ontario, to help quality improvement across the eating disorders sector.
Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act to Provide Liability Protection for Workers and Organizations
Yesterday, the Ontario government introduced the Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act. If passed, this legislation would provide liability protection for workers, volunteers and organizations “that make an honest effort to follow public health guidelines and laws relating to exposure to COVID-19.”
The Act is intended to provide targeted liability protection for the following groups, in order to ensure that Ontarians who are “contributing to provincial recovery” are not “discouraged from making a difference in their communities” out of fear of civil liability resulting from inadvertently exposing someone to COVID-19. These groups include:
- Healthcare workers and institutions;
- Frontline workers who serve the public everywhere from grocery stores, to restaurants and retail stores;
- Businesses and their employees;
- Charities and non-profit organizations;
- Coaches, volunteers, and minor sports associations.
In response to questions following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford clarified that this legislation, if passed, would maintain the right of Ontarians to take legal action against those who willfully, or with gross negligence, endangered others during the pandemic. He specified that this includes the right of Ontarians to take legal action against long-term care homes that acted recklessly and carelessly during COVID-19.