May 21, 2024

A half-billion dollars for a youth mental health program will be implemented by community organizations

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A recent funding announcement from the federal government has a Kingston mental health agency anticipating the ability to provide more services to youth in their communities.

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Last week, the federal government announced a half-billion dollars over four years to create a youth mental health fund, to be delivered through community organizations.

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Tara Everitt is the director of community services for Resolve Counselling Services, a not-for-profit Kingston agency that provides counselling programs for children, youth, families and adult couples and individuals.

The agency is a member of Resolve Counselling Services Canada and a member agency of the United Way of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.

In an interview on Tuesday, Everitt described the funding announcement as “huge.”

“I was excited when I saw the announcement, especially for our organization and what that could mean,” she said. “Right now, if you’re a young adult, the accessibility is limited.”

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Everitt said that in particular, mental health and counselling services for young people transitioning into adulthood — around the ages of 18 to 25 — can be very difficult to access due to affordability. Some funding exists for short-term counselling, but it’s often not enough.

“When you’re a young person struggling with different issues, short-term counselling can only do so much, and sometimes longer-term therapies are what is needed,” she said. “But if it’s not covered under any benefit plan, it’s very hard for someone to seek out longer-term counselling.”

A news release from the Canadian government on April 9 said that the $500-million fund will help to reduce wait times and provide more care options to young people, who are more likely to struggle with the costs of private mental health care.

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Canada’s Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jenna Sudds told the Whig-Standard that the mental health among young people has suffered since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve seen a decline over the last few years for a number of reasons, I think,” Sudds said. “Certainly COVID had an impact on young people and how they went about their lives and some of the struggles that they faced.”

Sudds referenced precarious employment and housing affordability as having “taken a toll” on young people in Canada.

“(This) announcement is really all about delivering (mental health care) for our young people and ensuring that they have the mental health supports that they need in order to reach their full potential.”

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While the delivery model has not yet been revealed, Sudds said the government is ready to partner with community organizations to implement the fund.

“There’s a number of incredible partners and community organizations that have been doing this work for a number of years but haven’t necessarily had the capacity to grow their services to the extent that they have been needed as we’ve seen more and more young people needing mental health support,” Sudds said. “It’s our plan to leverage that expertise and these organizations that have the ability to continue and to scale the work that they’ve been doing.”

Sudds says the funding is aimed at scaling access to services in the community.

“It’s the ability to grow that access, I think, that this fund and this investment will help to support,” she said.

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Everitt is hopeful that Resolve and other local organizations can utilize the fund to offer more services to the Kingston community. While the dream is to have mental health care be integrated into the public health-care system so that it’s accessible to everyone, an influx of money can help.

“There are family service agencies all over the province, and we all struggle for funding and for money,” she said. “It would be nice to have some kind of sustainability to help support more people and more of those living on lower incomes.

“We want to support as many people as we can.”

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