The Public Council of Ontario Directors of Education releases paper on Children's Mental Health

TORONTO, June 1, 2012 /CNW/ - Ontario's Public Directors of Education are urging the Province of Ontario to stay the course on ensuring youth receive timely, appropriate and local mental health supports.

The Public Council of Ontario Directors of Education (PCODE) today released a position paper, endorsed by the Canadian Mental Health Association - Ontario, on Children's Mental Health. Through the position paper, PCODE encourages the Province to forge ahead with the planned roll-out outlined in Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario's Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, released in June, 2011.

In its first three years, the strategy is to specifically target children and youth.

"School boards in Ontario are challenged to continuously improve student achievement and well-being," said Martyn Beckett, chair of PCODE and Director of Education with the Durham District School Board. "Mental health issues and substance abuse can have a significant negative impact on achieving these goals."

PCODE encourages the Province to promote cross-sector collaboration to support children's mental health, with an eye to fast, easy access to high quality service and earlier intervention.

To date, the strategy has seen an increase in mental health workers in schools, communities and courts, and more nurses working in schools to support early identification and intervention.

"We know early intervention is key and are pleased to see the efforts of the Province on this front to date," Beckett said.

For its part, PCODE believes it is incumbent upon school districts to act as a supportive partner to mental health professionals. Districts must work collaboratively with community partners to remove barriers to care and promote evidence-based program and intervention strategies.

"As Directors of Public Education, we really appreciate the direction the Province is taking around youth mental health," Beckett said. "It is our hope that roll-out of the strategy continues and is perhaps even accelerated, given the potential positive impact on the community we serve - students."

Background

  • It is estimated that one in five children has a mental health challenge, and that 70 per cent of mental health challenges begin in childhood or adolescence.
  • PCODE serves over 1.2 million students, and represents the chief education officers and chief executive officers of the 31 public district school boards in Ontario. Members of the organization provide leadership and management skills necessary to ensure high-quality organizations dedicated to improving student achievement and well-being.

Quotes

"This paper represents another landmark in the recognition of the balance between public education and mental well-being. Directors of education are in a unique position to guide system change on the mental health portfolio - their presence at the provincial coalition table and their work on this paper is indicative of the momentum building around mental well-being throughout education. We in education can and want to be part of the solution."

  • Catherine Fife, President, Ontario Public School Boards' Association

"The Ontario Principals' Council congratulates PCODE on a timely and focussed position paper on children's mental health. Because our Principal and Vice-Principal members consider this an area of critical importance, we fully endorse this paper and its worthy intent."

  • Ian Mcfarlane, Executive Director, Ontario Principals' Council

"The Ontario Public Supervisory Officials' Association shares the interest of the public directors of education in the mental health and well-being of our students, their families and our communities, and wholeheartedly endorses the PCODE Position Paper on Children's Mental Health. As supervisory officials committed to ensuring all students achieve their potential, we support PCODE's recommendations and look forward to continuing to work with PCODE as the 'Open Minds, Healthy Minds' vision is realized."

  • Ken Bain, President, Ontario Public Supervisory Officials' Association (OPSOA); Associate Director of Education, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

Public Council of Ontario Directors of Education (PCODE)

The Public Council of Ontario Directors of Education (PCODE) represents the chief education officers and chief executive officers of the 31 public district school boards in Ontario.  PCODE members provide the leadership and management skills required to ensure high quality organizations, dedicated to improving student achievement and well-being.  PCODE members serve over 1.2 million Ontario students.

CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH

Why Mental Health?

School Boards in Ontario are challenged to continuously improve student achievement and well-being. Mental health and substance abuse have a significant negative impact on achieving these goals.  The following excerpt from Taking Mental Health to School: A Policy-oriented Paper on School-based Mental Health for Ontario (2009) highlights the issue:

"Epidemiological studies indicate that up to one in five children and youth suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder including substance abuse.  Many more students experience mental health difficulties that cause significant problems.  These disorders and difficulties impose considerable barriers to the normal academic, emotional and social-developmental tasks of childhood and adolescence…"

PCODE Supports:

PCODE supports the four guiding goals identified in "Open Minds, Healthy Minds":

  1. Improve mental health and well-being for all Ontarians
  2. Create healthy, resilient, inclusive communities
  3. Identify mental health and addictions problems early and intervene
  4. Provide timely, high-quality, integrated, person-directed health and other services

PCODE supports the allocation of resources identified in Ministry of Education Memorandum: "Mental Health and Addictions Supports for District School Boards":

  • New Resource and Professional Learning Opportunity Supports
  • Additional Mental Health Workers (MCYS)
  • Additional Mental Health and Addictions Nurses (MOHLTC)
  • New Mental Health Leaders (EDU)
  • New School Mental Health Supports (ASSIST)

PCODE will continue to monitor and assess these additional resources to determine their benefit to students.

CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH

PCODE Recommends: 

PCODE is a key partner, sharing responsibility for implementation of the children's mental health strategy and therefore advocates consistency and clarity in achieving the vision of "Open Minds, Healthy Minds".

PCODE recommends that the Government of Ontario:

  1. Promote cross-sector collaboration in support of children's mental health
  2. Deliver fast, easy access to high quality service
  3. Identify and intervene in children's mental health early
  4. Close critical service gaps for vulnerable students and those in remote and underserviced communities
  5. Enhance the supports within school boards and communities to provide leadership, training and services related to children's mental health
  6. Engage and align federal and provincial partners in the provision of enhanced support for First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in effectively dealing with children's mental health and substance abuse.

PCODE recommends that all school boards and cross-sector partners:

  1. Acknowledge that clinical support and intervention for children's mental health should be led and managed by mental health professionals and that the school boards' role is that of a supportive partner
  2. Work collaboratively to remove barriers that hinder effective implementation of the children's mental health strategy
  3. Work collaboratively to promote evidence-based program and intervention strategies related to children's mental health
  4. Work collaboratively to develop an accountability structure to assess the effectiveness of our efforts to address the four guiding goals identified in "Open Minds, Healthy Minds"

__________________________

References:  Cornerstone reports and memoranda that demonstrate commitment in this area include:

  • 2006-Canadian Senate Committee Report- "Out of the Shadows at Last"
  • 2009-Government of Ontario Report - "Taking Mental Health to School: A Policy-oriented Paper on School-based Mental Health"
  • 2011 (June) -"Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario's Comprehensive   Mental Health and Addictions Strategy"
  • 2011 (October) - "Ontario's Three Year Child and Youth Mental Health Plan"
  • 2011 (November) - "Mental Health and Addictions Supports for District School Boards"
  • Key Working Group: "Coalition for Children and Youth Mental Health"

SOURCE Ontario Public Supervisory Officials' Association

For further information:

Media contact:

Wayne Joudrie
Assistant to the Executive Director of OPSOA/CODE
905-648-3721

Kathy Sanford
Executive Assistant, OPSOA/CODE
905-845-7003

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Ontario Public Supervisory Officials' Association

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