TORONTO —The Ontario government is investing $15 million this year to make it easier for people experiencing homelessness in the City of Toronto to connect to primary health care, mental health and other supports they need.
“We know people experiencing homelessness can face significant barriers to accessing health services, leaving them feeling unsupported within the health care system,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “This initiative, and our ongoing annual investment, is another important step our government is taking to help ensure the appropriate health supports are delivered where they are needed most, in the community.”
We know that those experiencing homelessness can face barriers to accessing the services they need.
That’s why Ontario is permanently investing an additional $15M in Toronto to make it easier to access primary care, mental health & other supports, where and when they are needed. pic.twitter.com/1ppmnGXghO
— Sylvia Jones (@SylviaJonesMPP) November 17, 2023
Ontario’s ongoing annual investment into the Health Services for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness Initiative, launched in 2020, is helping conveniently connect more people to health care services virtually as well as in-person at local shelters and mobile clinics. Developed by Ontario Health Toronto in collaboration with community partners such as Inner City Health Associates, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, and the Neighbourhood Group, the Initiative provides access to the following health care services and supports in the City of Toronto:
- Interprofessional primary care and psychiatric services through in-person and virtual outreach to shelters, drop-ins, clinics and streets/encampments to promote best health practices, offer vaccinations, and provide culturally appropriate primary, psychiatric, pediatric, and midwifery care from an Indigenous health professional.
- Mobile and community-embedded teams of health care workers to provide overdose prevention and mental health services, including helping people with complex and chronic mental illness connect to the right care, such as psychiatric and rehabilitation treatments.
- A peer worker support program that deploys teams made up of individuals who have experienced homelessness as a first point of contact to build trust and provide effective engagement, support, and navigation supports for those who are reluctant to access the supports and services they need.
“Our government recognizes that supportive housing is a key element in preventing and addressing homelessness and provides vulnerable people across Ontario with housing solutions that best meets their needs,” said Paul Calandra, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The investments we are announcing today, combined with other initiatives like the Homelessness Prevention Program, are providing supportive, safe and stable environments where people can chart a path to a better future.”
Over the past year, the Initiative has helped more than 9,000 people experiencing homelessness get the right care in the right place, including intervening and preventing more than 1,300 overdoses, and has significantly reduced hospital emergency department visits and admissions in the city.
“Our government is making significant investments across the mental health sector to ensure that Ontario’s most vulnerable people have targeted and reliable access to the mental health and addictions supports they need,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This annual investment into the Health Services for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness Initiative will help ensure every person living in Ontario can feel fully supported in their journey to wellness and recovery including those experiencing homelessness.”
Through Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care, the Ontario government is adding and expanding health care services in the community, making it easier for people to receive the care they need, where and when they need it. This includes building on the Roadmap to Wellness with additional investments, including in supportive housing to help provide housing and support for formerly homeless and low- and moderate-income people living with mental health and addictions challenges.
- The Health Services for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness Initiative was established in April 2020 to address urgent system gaps in the homelessness sector, which were widened by the pandemic, by providing access to essential outreach, support, and connection to necessary services for those experiencing homelessness.
- Mobile Indigenous Clinical Teams continue to provide culturally-specific primary care, psychiatry, pediatrics, midwifery, population health and community health worker supports led by Indigenous health professionals.
- In 2020, Ontario released a strategy to build a world-class mental health and addictions system – Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System. Supported by a commitment to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years, the Roadmap is adding capacity to meet demand, filling gaps in the delivery of care, and creating a provincial infrastructure for a mental health and addictions system that connects primary, community, and acute care to better wrap around the needs of people with mental health and addictions challenges.
“Providing mobile harm reduction supports within a health and wellness framework for unsheltered populations at high needs sheltering sites, including to clients in isolation due to infectious health conditions is essential and lifesaving. We saw the value of this during the height of the pandemic, and we are pleased to now see this sustained investment as affirmation that integration of health and harm reduction are responsive pillars of services for this marginalized and often stigmatized population.”
– Angela Robertson
Executive Director, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
“This shared work with invaluable partners across the acute, community health and social care sectors reflects exactly the kind of investment in integrated care that efficiently drives community impact and health system performance. We are honoured to have this opportunity to continue our determined work building where it’s deeply needed and applaud Ontario’s ongoing commitment to innovation in value-based care.”
– Dr. Andrew Bond
Medical Director, Inner City Health Associates
“In the last three years, this initiative has been effective in providing integrated care and improving health outcomes for some of Toronto’s most vulnerable residents. Based on its success to date, we’re confident that the funding will continue to provide supports, such as interprofessional primary care access, mental health services, and peer worker support programs, along with mobile supports and community-embedded teams, to people no matter where they find shelter. The investment announced today demonstrates a continued commitment to advancing health equity for all people who live in Toronto, including those who often have challenges accessing health care through more conventional channels.”
– Anna Greenberg
Chief Regional Officer, Toronto and East Regions, Ontario Health
SOURCE Province of Ontario