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MONTREAL -- Quebec announced an additional $25 million in funding for mental health services on Wednesday as the demand continues to increase across the province.
“We know the pandemic has had and will continue to have an effect on mental health,” said Junior Health and Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant at a news conference on Wednesday.
The funding will be used to increase accessibility to services for young people, their families and their loved ones; to consolidate professional teams that already exist; and to increase support for professionals working in mental health services for youth. Specifically, 250 full-time resources will be added to the network through the funding -- either by providing existing staff with more hours or by hiring more professionals. Groups will consist of social workers, special educators, psychoeducators, psychologists and nurses, to name a few.
Wednesday's announcement is in addition to a recurring $20-million investment in youth mental health and a $31.1-million investment for psychological services amid the pandemic.
Carmant said waitlists to receive care for mental health in Quebec are too long -- and while they have been reduced (from about 28,000 to 16,000) since 2019, they haven't improved much for youth. In 2019, about 6,000 youth were on waitlists, compared to 5,000 today.
"It's a first step," Carmant said of the funding. He added that 50 per cent of people who struggle with their mental health don't consult.
The news comes after a recent survey by the Ordre des psychologues du Quebec among its private and public members recorded an increase in distress among patients amid the pandemic. Specifically, 86 per cent of respondents noticed an increase.
Psychologists say psychological distress manifests itself in more anxiety and 70 per cent in depressive symptoms. They also saw an increase in urgent requests and more problems with concentration, memory and attention (56 per cent).
The president of the Ordre des psychologues du Québec, Christine Grou, is worried this portrait is just the tip of the iceberg.
Grou observed that nearly 70 per cent of psychologists who responded to the survey claimed to have received feedback from former clients whose condition has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said Quebec is going through an unprecedented crisis and that the psychological impacts -- especially on vulnerable people -- are major. The struggles intensify and become more complex. Grou says we must act now to prevent the worst.
According to the survey, more than 50 per cent of psychologists say they are ready to take part in an emergency program to make their services easily accessible. In total, nearly 7,000 hours per week could be added by psychologists to help the population.
The survey was sent to the order's 8,843 members Oct. 19 and responses were collected until Oct. 21. A sample of 2,744 psychologists answered the questions, or 31 per cent of its members.
Earlier, the official opposition in the National Assembly said that it would accept nothing less from the minister than universal access to psychotherapy programs, where 15 sessions per year could be reimbursed by the RAMQ.
"A two-tier program cannot work", said Liberal parliamentary leader André Fortin in a news briefing.
With files from The Canadian Press.