People in Ontario’s rural and northern communities have higher self-reported rates of fair or poor mental health, compared to the provincial average. CMHA Ontario is concerned about this disparity and remains committed to working with our local Branches to address the systemic barriers contributing to this inequity. In the past, CMHA Ontario has highlighted key challenges facing these communities and will continue to monitor any developments that focus on addressing mental health issues in northern Ontario. In this regard, CMHA Ontario is pleased that a number of recent provincial initiatives have specifically targeted rural and northern communities with the goal of addressing systemic gaps and improving access to and availability of mental health services.
For example, the Rural and Northern Health Care Framework guides the unique health care needs of nearly two million Ontarians who live in rural and northern areas of the province. More specifically, this framework defines a vision, guiding principles, planning standards, strategies and guidelines that, when implemented, will improve access to health care in these areas.
One example of this framework in action is the recently announced expansion of the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) of Greater Sudbury. This is an organization run by and for consumers of mental health services that works to eliminate stigma and discrimination. NISA amalgamated two smaller offices to a larger space to increase its capacity to offer peer support services for people who suffer from mental illness. North East Local Health Integration Network, which funds NISA, said the organization plays, “a vital role in Sudbury’s mental health system.”
The health of people living in rural and northern communities is featured prominently in a number of provincial initiatives this year, including the Provincial Budget, Poverty Reduction Strategy and Rural Roadmap. The government states that these initiatives aim to address essential public services needed to drive economic growth, create jobs and support a high quality of life in northern Ontario’s communities.