Gates seeking more mental health funding for Niagara
Motion takes ‘modest amount’ of Ontario budget
A motion being tabled at Queen’s Park today by Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates aims to secure $2.5 million per year to expand mental health services across the region.
“Our government must do more to ensure everyone who needs access to mental health supports can get it,” said Gates, speaking at the Niagara Falls office of Canadian Mental Health Services on Wednesday.
The motion calls for current mental health support in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines to operate 24 hours, seven days a week, along with the creation of a 24-hour Welland location. The funding would complement and expand services offered by agencies such as CMHA and Pathstone Mental Health. It would also provide more transportation for people in need to get to drop-in centres.
While praising workers and volunteers on the frontlines in Niagara, Gates said the agencies “can only stretch their dollars so far.”
“We can and we must do more.
“This motion takes a modest amount of the provincial budget,” he added. “This ask would be less than .002 of the provincial budget, but would go a long way to help Niagara.”
CMHA executive director Tara McKendrick said one in five people in Canada will experience a mental health issue at some point, which also impacts family, friends and caregivers.
“We also know that mental health and addiction concerns do not only appear during traditional business
hours,” she said, adding that current resources in Niagara “have their limitations, in hours of operation and staffing to meet the needs of our community.”
“Mental health and addictions agencies in Niagara are constantly, actively reviewing how to do things better with what we currently have, and advocate to fill gaps and increase resources.”
Gates will table the motion with the support of St. Catharines MPP (and fellow NDP member) Jennie Stevens, who joined him at Wednesday’s announcement. He also hopes it gets the support of Conservative Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff.
Gates stressed the issue of mental health is too important to be sidetracked by party politics.
“If you come across with an idea that’s important for the province of Ontario, you put the facts in front of them, I think we can get the support of all parties.”
Gates is pushing especially hard for mental health services after attending the funeral of a youth who died by leaping off the Burgoyne Bridge in St. Catharines in October. He was shocked to learn an average of one person in the region dies by suicide every eight days.
“The stats speak for themselves on what’s going on in Niagara,” he said. “I don’t know how, quite frankly, any government can say no to providing more services when we have that type of ratio of people dying. Particularly with our young people.”
McKendrick added that as the stigma around mental illness and addiction is reduced, more people are reaching out to help. Which puts a bigger strain on support services.
“We definitely see an increase in calls to our crisis lines. We don’t believe it’s an increase in mental health, it’s an increase in people asking for help with mental health.”
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Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates wants more mental health and addictions services funding. He is joined by Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Tara McKendrick, left, and St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens.