2016—2017 · Vol. 44 No. 5



Moving on mental health

Understanding the impact on education

Five years ago, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) announced a “significant’ plan for the reform of services to children and youth, since the community-based system was created in 1972. The Ministry of Education has worked “in partnership” with MCYS, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development to implement a strategy to provide “high quality mental health and addictions services.”

The first three of these five components of the Ontario government’s plan have been fully or partially completed:

  • Creating and supporting pathways to care
  • Defining core services
  • Establishing community lead agencies
  • Creating a new funding model
  • Building a legislative and regulatory framework

The action plan and its implementation has been closely monitored by OSSTF/FEESO. Prior to the 2012 announcement, our union was one of many voices calling for the end of a patchwork of services to meet the mental health needs of children, youth and their families. Our 2008 research report, Enhancing Services, Enhancing Success, provided firm evidence that school-based staff, such as child and youth workers, psychologists, social workers and speech and language pathologists, are necessary to “create the conditions for every single student to reach their full potential.”

OSSTF/FEESO continues its strong advocacy for consistent staffing of professional student services in all Ontario schools, with improved access to community agencies when complex mental health needs are identified. The Liberal government, on the other hand, has used its mandate to further entrench the patchwork of services. Moving on Mental Health has resulted in the establishment of 31 Lead Agencies (two remain to be named) working within 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).

Lead Children’s Mental Health agencies have been charged with the responsibility of coordinating mental health services for children and youth, and now define the role of school-based services (performed by OSSTF/FEESO members where we represent PSSP Bargaining Units). Community Hubs are being created with sporadic announcements of funding across the province. The promise of building “a stronger, more coherent and accountable system of care” has yet to be realized.

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