Changes could come to mental health services in Halton schools

By Julia Le

The Halton Region Health Department is eyeing changes to the way it delivers mental health services in Halton schools.

It’s looking to shift funding and resources that support individuals in schools experiencing mental health issues to enhance early years mental health promotion.

Halton Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hamidah Meghani told Halton Region’s health and social services committee members Tuesday (Oct. 4) the mental health programs and services it delivers to schools comes in two parts; mental health promotion that’s mandated by the Ontario Public Health Standards and funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and individual mental health services the Health Department has been providing for a number of years through public health nurses.

Halton was the only public health unit in Ontario providing the service, she noted.

More recently, Community Care Access Centres has been providing school-based support for individuals experiencing mental health issues in both secondary schools and elementary schools across the province, however Halton continues to take care of the elementary schools.

“When we’re looking at our current fiscal climate and also looking at what we’re doing that is mandated by the Ontario Public Health Standards, this is one of the services that we have examined with staff,” said Meghani, noting the Health Department has been working with the school boards for a number of months on how to transition out of the particular kind of support to create a more streamlined service with “less players at the table so that we can provide value in terms of where we are best fit from a public health perspective to provide a service.

“That is in the area of enhancing our early years mental health promotions portfolio,” she continued. “So this is where we think we can have a better impact on preventing mental health problems in the first place by providing skills to parents and families.”

The Health Department plans on transitioning families that are currently receiving service and connecting them with other service providers so they can continue receiving help by June 2017.

She added the department would reallocate those resources into early years mental health promotion as well as a couple of other areas where there is need, including immunization and other public health roles.

If approved by Halton Regional council Wednesday (Oct. 12), staff will move forward with the transition plan.

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