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Permanent funding for mental health workers

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The Ontario government is providing $40 million for student mental health initiatives, including permanent funding for 180 mental health workers in secondary schools.

The province’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced the funding earlier this month on National Mental Health Day.

The majority of the funding, $25 million, will be spread out over 70 school boards as permanent funding to keep on mental health workers who were hired in the 2018-19 school year. These include social workers, psychologists and psychotherapists.

“Too many students are struggling with their mental health and well-being,” said Lecce. “I am proud to be a member of this government that is applying a compassionate eye to making mental health a priority by more than doubling mental health supports for our kids.”

Oshawa trustee Michael Barrett, board chair for the Durham District School Board, says the local board has four mental health workers in its secondary schools.

Barrett says the province is now making temporary funding permanent going forward.

“It’s not necessarily additional dollars, but it crystallizes the funding,” Barrett adds.

For Barrett, this brings piece of mind to board officials.

“Mental health is never an issue that should be seen as we renew the funding year-to-year. You can’t build programming and aid to our most vulnerable when you are always worried [about funding],” Barrett adds.

When asked if funding could increase in the future, Barrett was unsure.

“I know that we, and all other school boards, will continue to advocate. This is one of the most significant issues we are facing.”

According to a ministry press release, one in five students in Grades 7 to 12 rate their mental health as “fair or poor,” and 70 per cent of mental health and addiction issues begin in childhood or as a teen.