Ontario Connecting People in Thunder Bay to Mobile Mental Health Services

Press Release

May 10, 2024

THUNDER BAY — The Ontario government is investing more than $2.7 million over three years to launch a new mobile crisis response team in Thunder Bay to make it easier and more convenient for people experiencing homelessness or mental health and addictions crisis to get the support they need. This is one of three innovative pilot programs the government is launching that use mobile crisis response teams to expand access to specialized addictions care in the community, avoiding unnecessary visits to emergency departments and police involvement.

“People facing mental health and addictions crisis require immediate response and help connecting to longer-term care options,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Our government is funding innovative programs like this one in Thunder Bay as a critical step to filling gaps in mental health and addictions care, addressing the surge in demand for substance use services and helping ensure vulnerable people connect to high-quality care where and when they need it.”

The mobile crisis response team will be called Superior North Specialized Treatment and Alternative Responders (STAR). It is expected to launch later this year and will consist of community paramedicine and mental health crisis workers that can provide immediate mental health and addictions support and options for ongoing care, including:

  • On-scene interventions, de-escalation and emotional support to help reduce violence
  • Working together with 9-1-1 models of care so that they can refer eligible patients to the mobile crisis response team for appropriate, timely care instead of transporting them to the emergency department
  • A safety plan to help mitigate future crises
  • Connections to mental health and addiction services, primary care and community-based support programs
  • Transportation to treatment facilities or safe locations, such as justice safe beds or safe consumption sites, if available.

“Our government is making bold and innovative changes to the health system to improve access to mental health and addictions services that better reflect the needs of people and their families who are experiencing mental health and substance use challenges,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “By investing in targeted services like mobile crisis response teams, we are breaking down barriers to mental health and addictions care in communities across the province, saving trips to hospital emergency departments and police involvement for emergencies.”

With Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care, the government has significantly expanded addictions services and increased the number of treatment beds across the province, helping thousands of Ontarians access enhanced specialized services for mental health and addictions treatment, including in rural, northern and Indigenous communities.

Quick Facts

  • The STAR team will be working with community partners to provide bundled, wrap around care within the community. Through engagement with Indigenous partners, this program will also explore how to include an Indigenous liaison on the team to ensure cultural competence and safety.
  • The government is investing up to $8 million over three years through the Addictions Recovery Fund for three pilot mobile crisis response teams in Lambton County, Thunder Bay and Simcoe County.
  • Each health-led model of mobile crisis response team will be implemented as a community paramedicine program and will not impact 9-1-1 ambulance services, including dispatch.
  • Ontario continues to expand successful 9-1-1 patient care models that provide paramedics more flexibility to treat certain patients who call 9-1-1, at home or on-scene in the community. There are currently over 200 patient care models being led by 56 paramedic services across the province that are now approved to provide more appropriate and timely care options for eligible 9-1-1 patients in the community, instead of in the emergency department.
  • Ontario is investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to fill gaps in mental health and addictions care, create new services and expand programs through Roadmap to Wellness.
  • As part of Budget 2024, Building a Better Ontario, the government is investing an additional $396 million over three years to improve access and expand existing mental health and addictions services and programs. This includes an investment of $124 million over three years to continue to support the Addictions Recovery Fund and ensure people can connect to enhanced specialized mental health and addictions treatment they need.

Quotes

“It has been an absolute pleasure to work closely with Minister Tibollo and Chief Shane Muir and his team, to arrive at this announcement today. Simply put, the objective of STAR is to help people move from crisis to connections. I am pleased that our government has once again recognized the value of resilient funding structures. We also find it important to acknowledge the tremendous work that has already been advanced locally and regionally, through the backbone support organizations who enable this essential multi-stakeholder work.”
– Kevin Holland
MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan

“I am so happy to hear that these types of non-police emergency response teams are gaining traction in communities who are experiencing such high volumes of calls for help due to mental health and addictions challenges. Once again, MPP Kevin Holland has heard and actively supported the calls of our community partners and experts, for an evidence-informed behavioral health first response pilot right here in Thunder Bay. The fact that we are one of three communities implementing this pilot, well, we are extremely grateful to MPP Holland and Minister Tibollo.”
– Ken Boshcoff
Mayor of Thunder Bay

“Superior North EMS is pleased to announce the implementation of the STAR program, an innovative initiative aimed at enhancing patient care within our community. We extend our sincere gratitude to our esteemed community partners, as well as the offices of Minister Tibollo and MPP Holland, whose unwavering support has been instrumental in bringing this program to fruition.”
– Shane Muir
Chief of Superior North Emergency Medical Services for the City and District of Thunder Bay

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Media Contacts
Hannah Jensen
Minister Jones’ Office
Hannah.R.Jensen@ontario.ca

Anna Miller
Communications Branch
media.moh@ontario.ca
416-314-6197

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