2018 provincial budget focuses on mental health, employment

Significant funds allocated towards supporting Indigenous communities in the province

Queen's Park in Toronto.
Supplied by Wikimedia
On Mar. 28, the Ontario provincial government released their 2018 budget which focuses on healthcare, mental health, education and Indigenous issues. 
In January of this year, the provincial government invested $465 million into a medicare expansion. OHIP+: Children and Youth Pharmacare, covers 4,400 drugs currently under the Ontario Drug Benefit program. An Exceptional Access Program also allows for coverage of additional pharmaceuticals for eligible applicants. 
Moreover, the passing of Rowan’s Law in March — aimed at improving concussion safety — will see the province invest $5 million over three years towards implementing requirements to review concussion awareness resources annually, “removal-from-sport” and “return-to-sport” protocols and a code of conduct regarding concussions. 
The province has also stated they will increase access to publicly funded psychotherapy by putting $175 million over a four-year period towards augmenting school-based support services for mental health and addiction. This will result in 400 new mental health works employed to support students in Ontario. 
Two-hundred and twenty-two million dollars will also be dedicated to the Strategy to Prevent Opioid Addiction and Overdose. According to the official budget report, the Opioid Emergency Task Force will work with the Ontario government to provide “person-centred, stigma-free  services to people in their own communities, including funding supervised consumption services and overdose prevention sites.” 
The Liberal government has also allocated $30 billion in capital grants, to be distributed to postsecondary institutions over the next 10 years. 
In the section entitled “Working with Indigenous Partners,” the government detailed a number of budget allocations towards supporting Indigenous communities in the province. The Ontario’s First Nations Health Action Plan will put $222 million over three years towards “increasing equitable access to care and taking steps to give First Nations decision-making power over health care.” After the three-year period, annual sustained funding will commit $104.5 million towards maintaining these endeavours. 
The plan will include initiatives “[p]roviding culturally appropriate primary health care services and programs to Indigenous peoples — including individuals and families living in remote and fly-in communities.” 
This will include an expansion of access to home and community care, as well as an expansion or creation of 16 interprofessional primary care teams that will be governed and supported by Indigenous communities.
Other initiatives include support for 34 Indigenous-led mental health and wellness programs across the province that include traditional healing to provide “enhanced, culturally appropriate supports for Indigenous youth, adults, families and communities.”
The budget will see the province’s total debt increase to $358.8 billion. In addition, accumulated deficit will rise to $199.1 billion, from an interim period 2017-18 deficit 
of $6.7 billion. 
The Good Jobs and Growth Plan will receive $900 million across three years towards economic growth and supporting local business. Additionally, the Career Ready fund will see an extension to 2020-21 due to a $12 million supplementation. The fund aims to support over 28,000 experiential learning opportunities for students. 
As a response to student and employer needs in the labour market, there’s also a $132 million provision dedicated to innovate programming.
Kingston and the Islands MPP Sophie Kiwala spoke to The Journal regarding the budget’s employment allocations. According to a statement emailed by Kiwala’s office, “This investment will strengthen their partnership with local employers to provide more students with hands on experiential learning opportunities.” 

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