On April 2, 2020 Premier Doug Ford and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibollo, announced that the Ontario government is providing $12 million in emergency mental health funding for virtual supports, as well as $2.6 million for mental health supports directed at the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). Premier Ford and Associate Minister Tibollo were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott.
In addition to today’s announcement, Premier Ford also spoke to the need to be transparent with Ontarians and provided an update on his decision to release COVID-19 modelling data for Ontario. Premier Ford also answered questions about steps he is considering to escalate Ontario’s response to the pandemic.
Earlier today, Attorney General Doug Downey announced $4 million to support victims of crime and protect front-line justice staff.
The Ontario government also issued a statement earlier today outlining supports for the trucking sector as truckers keep goods moving through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Mental Health Funding – Associate Minister Michael Tibollo
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo, today announced $12 million in emergency funding to immediately expand online and virtual mental health supports for Ontarians experiencing anxiety, stress, and other mental health challenges in light of COVID-19, including those who are unable to access regular in-person counselling supports. These resources will address the needs of youth and adults and will include more dedicated supports for those working on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.
Today’s announcement will enable mental health agencies to receive emergency funding in order to hire and train more staff and purchase necessary equipment. Service will be immediately expanded on a range of platforms, including:
- BounceBack: A guided self-help program for adults and youth aged 15 and over, using workbooks, online videos, and phone coaching;
- Kids Help Phone: A bilingual 24/7 virtual support service offering counselling, information, referrals, and text-based support to young people;
- Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT);
- iCBT for front-line health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout, or PTSD.
Training on CBT-based interventions will also be provided to front-line workers in organizations such as Telehealth Ontario, as well as in emergency departments, in order to better support individuals experiencing acute anxiety due to COVID-19.
In addition, Associate Minister Tibollo announced $2.6 million in funding to hire new psychologists and other mental health workers to support OPP personnel. This announcement responds to recommendations made in the final report of the OPP Independent Review Panel (IRP) to improve how the OPP addresses issues of mental health, occupational stress and suicide among its members.
COVID-19 Modelling Data and Escalating Ontario’s Response – Premier Doug Ford
Ahead of today’s announcement, Premier Ford spoke about the difficulty of adapting to a new reality and making decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic. He announced that in order to be transparent with Ontarians health officials will share Ontario’s COVID-19 modelling data tomorrow. The data will show Ontario’s past and current COVID-19 trajectory and point to where the province is headed without further action.
Ontario’s government will be the first Canadian government to share its COVID-19 modelling data with the public. Premier Ford warned Ontarians that while the numbers presented tomorrow will be stark, he believes they are important to share. He also expressed hope that those not currently taking the recommendations of health professionals seriously may change their behaviour after seeing the data.
Premier Ford also answered questions about steps he is considering to escalate the province’s response to the pandemic. He confirmed that Ontario’s list of essential services is being adjusted and that he would provide an update on this in the coming days.
Premier Ford was also asked about Quebec’s decision to install police checkpoints at its shared border with Ontario in the National Capital Region and whether Ontario would follow suit and limit travel across provincial borders. Premier Ford said he is looking to the federal government to come up with a national strategy for inter-provincial travel and to provide resources to provinces in order to enforce any sort of travel restrictions within Canada. The OPP is currently stretched too thin to patrol the Ontario border.
Strengthening Victim Services – Attorney General Doug Downey
Earlier today, Attorney General Doug Downey announced $4 million to support victims of crime and protect front-line staff who continue to uphold the administration of justice during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Ontario government is providing an emergency payment of more than $2.7 million to support services for victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. This announcement follows an increase in reports of domestic violence in light of recommendations to stay home to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The $2.7 million emergency payment will be distributed to community agencies across Ontario and will enable these services to stay operational and accessible to victims during the public health crisis. Funds will help staff respond to challenges caused by COVID-19 and enhance access to immediate supports for victims.
The Ontario government is also investing $1.3 million in technology to help courts and tribunals continue the transition to remote operations. Funds will support the purchase of laptops, conference lines and digital recording devices for court use. This funding was first announced on March 25th in Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19.
Support for Trucking Sector – Minister Caroline Mulroney
The Ontario government also issued a statement earlier today outlining supports for the trucking sector as truckers work to keep goods moving through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The statement calls on all business owners to support truck drivers when they are stopping to rest, get gas, or use washrooms. The statement also outlines actions the government is taking to ensure to ensure that truckers continue to have access to necessary facilities. All 23 ONroute travel plazas remain open for take-out services and include washrooms with enhanced cleaning. Portable washrooms have also been provided at 32 truck inspection stations.