Photo Credit: pxfuel

ONTARIO πŸ§‘πŸ”Ž Ford Government Cuts to Children's Mental Health and Autism Services Cause 21 Layoffs At Maltby Centre βš•οΈ

Monday, 08 April 2024 02:27.PM

The Ford government has dealt yet another devastating blow to children's mental health and autism services in the Kingston-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington region, at a time when nearly two-thirds of youth have reported worse mental health since the beginning of the pandemic.

21 children's mental health professionals represented by OPSEU/SEFPO Local 460 (plus several staff in non-unionized positions) are facing layoff from the Maltby Centre Mental Health & Autism Services for Children and Youth, due to a funding shortfall from the provincial government. This follows a cut of 14 unionized staff positions (and 4 non-unionized positions) in April 2023, also because of budget constraints, which forced the Maltby Centre to cut all after business hours crisis services.

"This is devastating news not only for our members who have dedicated their professional careers to helping children and youth, but also for the children they work with and their families," said JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO President. "The Ford government's changes in the funding formula for autism services has resulted in privatized services that most families cannot afford or access, while agencies like Maltby Centre are decimated."

For more than 15 years, there has only been one base funding increase from the provincial government for children's mental health and child treatment services, in April 2023. The Ford government's funding formula changes and move to privatized services have exacerbated the funding disaster, not only for Maltby Centre, but across the sector. The occasional government funding announcements are for targeted new programs that are not sustainably funded over the long-term, increasing the budgetary shortfalls for agencies that deliver the programs.

"There's a vicious cycle happening," said Tannis McGinn, OPSEU/SEFPO Local 460 President, and Child Treatment Sector Chair. "It's hard to retain staff in agencies like ours here at the Maltby Centre, because children's mental health and child treatment professionals are paid significantly less than similar jobs in other sectors. When the government starves our agencies of base funding, they end up with a choice between keeping wages low and being unable to retain staff, or raising wages to attract staff and not being able to afford to keep them."

As Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO's Child Treatment sector, which represents members at 35 children's mental health and children's treatment centres across the province, McGinn points out underfunding and understaffing has plagued the sector for years.

"We've had some layoffs in other agencies, and with this new funding formula and chronic underfunding, we're expecting more," said McGinn. "We're in a mental health crisis for children and youth, and it's time for the Ford government to raise the base funding so that dedicated professionals like our members can provide the mental health treatment children and youth in Ontario deserve. Children need quality mental health services they can count on."

SOURCE: Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/SEFPO)

* * *