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Increased mental health funding announced for local college, university students

COVID has worsened mental health for some, more supports needed, says MPP Romano
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Additional spending of nearly $300,000 will go to support the mental health and wellness of Sault College and Algoma University students.

Sault College will receive an additional $149,252 in funding for mental health supports, Algoma University an additional $146,823, Sault MPP Ross Romano announced in a virtual address Friday.

“This is annualized funding. This is support that goes year over year to ensure that our post-secondary institutions can provide supports to our post-secondary students, and ensure that they’re getting the help they need when they need it most, so that we can be consistently proactive about how we deal with our mental health and addictions crisis,” Romano said.

“For some people, getting to a hospital is sometimes too late, so we need to have the wrap-around supports so that we can ensure that we’re taking care of people before they go to the hospital, and when they do get to the hospital.” 

COVID-19 has worsened mental health issues for many, Romano said.

“This has been such a difficult year for everyone, and here in Sault Ste. Marie now, we’re being hit with COVID numbers worse than we’ve ever been, and this very long period of nearly 20 months now has been a struggle for so many.”

“You can imagine how difficult it is for some of our students who have had to struggle between having to work from home, learning from home, and for a lot of people that’s very, very challenging. Not having that personal contact with the professors and their peers in the classroom can be extremely challenging,” Romano said.

“We want to continue to work with our students, provide them with the critical support they need so they can learn and grow as individuals,” said Ron Common, Sault College president.

Common said the college has already provided a variety of mental health supports for its students, including quick access to experienced counsellors, stigma reduction strategies, Indigenous and cultural programming, mental health education programming, a wellness app for students and additional staff to help.

“This is extremely positive news for colleges and universities,” said Karen Hudson, Algoma University student success and well-being director.

“As the province continues to face the complex challenges brought on by COVID-19, ensuring that students have the critical mental health support they need any time of day or week is now more important than ever.”

Existing counselling and supports at Algoma University include counselling services by phone, video, online counselling and in person when available through Homewood Health (services provided in 140 languages 24 hours a day, seven days a week), Hudson said.

“Although we’ve managed to temporarily navigate the wide ranging impacts of COVID-19, it has not been easy and there is so much left to do. I want to acknowledge our staff and faculty, our leadership team, and most importantly our students for their resiliency. They’re on their way back,” Hudson said.                               

The funding announced by Romano Friday is part of an additional $8.7 million for Ontario post-secondary institutions announced Nov. 4 in the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review: Build Ontario.