Innovative Health and Wellbeing Program for Newcomers Will Reduce Reliance on Emergency Departments

A picture of a newcomer mother and daughter

Innovative Health and Wellbeing Program for Newcomers Will Reduce Reliance on Emergency Departments

Today, the Canadian Mental Health Association, York and South Simcoe (CMHA-YRSS) launches an innovative program, Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being, to meet the unique mental health and primary care needs of immigrants and refugees in the area.

The 2016 Census Release Report revealed that 47% of the population of York Region was born outside of Canada. York Region had the third highest proportion of immigrants in the GTA, with 51,410 recent immigrants settling here between 2011 and 2016.

Research has shown that incidents of mental distress, depression, anxiety, and impact of trauma are significantly higher for immigrants and refugees[1], but settlement agencies and other providers report a lack of access to culturally appropriate, trauma-informed care.

Funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and in partnership with Cedar Centre, settlement agencies and community care providers, the CMHA-YRSS program will seek to address this gap and improve mental health and well-being outcomes for immigrants and refugees aged 12 years and older.

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, said, “Taking care of our mental health is extremely important for all Canadians, including newcomers and refugees. Many refugees have been through unimaginable trauma.  By providing settlement workers with mental health training, outreach and education, CMHA is ensuring that newcomers or refugees who may be suffering from depression, mental distress or trauma can feel safe and secure in knowing that mental health services are available to them as they begin their new life in Canada. On behalf of IRCC, I congratulate CMHA today for the launch of their innovative new program, Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being.”

CMHA-YRSS CEO Rebecca Shields said, “I’m thrilled that support from IRCC is enabling us to launch this innovative and much-needed program. We know that migration and settlement can be a stressful and sometimes traumatic life event that comes with unique mental health impacts. We are always looking to identify the mental healthcare needs of our community and being able to increase culturally appropriate access to care means better health and social outcomes for individuals, their families and our community.”

Settlement agencies and community care providers will refer individuals in need of care to CMHA, with services to be provided at CMHA sites, local Welcome Centres, and other community locations convenient to the newcomer. Services will include a comprehensive mental and physical health assessment, counselling/psychotherapy, psychoeducation, health promotion, training/education, consultation, and coordinated care, provided by a nurse practitioner, clinical therapists, and program coordinator. Those in need of trauma-specific services will be referred to Cedar Centre.

The program is expected to reduce reliance on emergency departments, police, and other crisis services through system capacity building and education provided to those who work directly with newcomers, early identification and intervention and improved access to care. Critically, the program will improve health outcomes and the social inclusion of immigrants and refugees in the community, by providing culturally appropriate mental health awareness and education and supporting clients to navigate the healthcare system and receive ongoing support.

Brenton Diaz, Clinical Coordinator and Therapist at the Cedar Centre said, “The Newcomers’ Health and Well-Being Program fills an important gap in York Region by offering holistic services to promote health in culturally-appropriate ways, honouring the strengths of our Newcomer/Refugee communities. This unique Program provides vital support to our Newcomer/Refugee communities to help better their lives through an unprecedented and unified partnership of agencies and sectors.”

Patricia Cousins, CEO for Social Enterprise for Canada and a Lead Partner for Welcome Centre Immigrant Services in York Region said, “CMHA is a strong new partner within the Welcome Centre system. The five principal partners are excited to bring this agency’s expertise and support to newcomers in York and Simcoe Regions.”

[1] Kirmayer et al., 2011; Im et al., 2020