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Family Navigation Project receives $1M from the Slaight Family Foundation in support of youth mental health

March 10, 2021

Family Navigation Project receives $1M from the Slaight Family Foundation in support of youth mental health

The Family Navigation Project (FNP) at Sunnybrook is a recipient organization of the Slaight Family Foundation Mental Health Initiative announced today. The initiative is a $30 million commitment that will provide new or enhanced services to address the growing mental health needs for some of Canada’s most vulnerable populations, as mental health challenges continue to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

FNP will receive $1M for its Youth Engagement Strategy that will ensure as many youth as possible with mental health and addiction concerns in the Greater Toronto Area receive the care they need, when and where they need it, and in ways that speak directly to them. Youth with lived experience and youth-focused organizations will play a key role in establishing a permanent Youth Advisory Council and creating, for the first time, a youth-centred navigator position.

FNP is a Greater Toronto Area-based free phone and email service that connects families who have a youth struggling with mental health and addiction issues with the services they need.

Read the media release:

The Slaight Family Foundation commits $30M to mental health initiatives across Canada
One in five Canadians struggling with mental health issues

TORONTO (MARCH 10, 2021) – The Slaight Family Foundation announced today a $30 million commitment to support 19 Canadian organizations offering mental health services across the country now and in the future. The initiative will provide new or enhanced services to address the growing mental health needs for some of Canada’s most vulnerable populations, as mental health challenges continue to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada is experiencing a mental health crisis. Suicide is the leading health related cause of death among young people accounting for 25% of deaths. Children and youth in care are almost four times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder and 17 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to children in the general population. 2SLGBTQI people are also falling through the gaps in Canada’s mental health system due to discrimination and a lack of cultural competency and Kids Help Phone has seen 137% increase since last year with some of the most distressed users experiencing racism. There are an alarming 46 deaths per week from accidental opioid poisoning and overdose is now one of Canada’s leading causes of preventable deaths. Seniors too are facing higher risks of developing mental health issues due to the social isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know COVID-19 has exacerbated mental health issues across the country putting huge stress on our hospitals and organizations providing services,” said Gary Slaight, President & CEO, The Slaight Family Foundation. “We hope this support will help alleviate some of these stresses, reduce hospital visits, provide additional services for those in need of mental health support and develop new models of care and service for others to emulate”.

Among the 19 organizations to receive a donation, SickKids Foundation will receive $10M to establish the Slaight Mental Health Inpatient Unit in the New SickKids re-build and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) will receive $2.5M to create a new 25-bed unit for transitional aged youth (16 to 25 years) in its new McCain Complex Care & Recovery Building.

“In recent years, SickKids has seen increased acuity, severity and risk of suicidality at younger ages. Thanks to the transformational support of The Slaight Family Foundation we will rise to the challenge of this child and adolescent mental health crisis”, said Ronald Cohn, President & CEO, SickKids Hospital. “This gift will allow us to double the size of our current inpatient mental health unit, ensuring the province’s most complex patients receive the highest quality care. This is a wonderfully fitting legacy of the Slaight Family’s tremendous history with SickKids, which reaches back decades.”

Funds will also support:

  • Children and youth at risk, whether it be from lack of home support, disabilities, peer pressure or loneliness
  • Specific mental health support services for Black youth throughout Canada in partnership with Black-led organizations
  • Increased access to mental health resources for Indigenous youth
  • The 2SLGBTQI community with better access to inclusive mental health services
  • Our most vulnerable seniors who are facing isolation and lack of services
  • Healthcare workers who work tirelessly and put themselves at risk’s door to keep us all safe and healthy

“When COVID-19 created a crisis like no other experienced in Canada, our youth and their mental health was impacted” said Katherine Hay, President & CEO, Kids Help Phone, “Black youth have been underserved in general and have been greatly impacted by COVID-19 – and we will not, we cannot, leave them behind. The unwavering commitment of The Slaight Family Foundation will help right tomorrow for Black youth.”

With increased mental health support for our most vulnerable, we can reduce demands on our health care system and build stronger community supports in mental health.

“This year has tested the mental health care system to its limits,” said Dr. Catherine Zahn, President and CEO, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). “COVID-19 has had an impact on mental health that’s unique in its breadth and depth. Youth, seniors, disadvantaged individuals and populations, and healthcare workers are all suffering. This newest gift from The Slaight Family Foundation will support us to do our best – for those most in need – right now. On behalf of the nineteen organizations receiving gifts, I want to express deepest gratitude to The Slaight Family Foundation for your support and your confidence in our work.”

Since 2013, The Slaight Family Foundation has funded several strategic initiatives to multiple organizations. These initiatives started with gifts to five Toronto hospitals to support priority healthcare issues, followed by programs to address global humanitarianism, healthy development of children and youth across Canada, support for Indigenous issues, a seniors’ initiative to help keep seniors in their homes and communities, and, last year’s initiative to support more than one million women and girls globally.

The Slaight Family Foundation was established in 2008 by John Allan Slaight. Allan Slaight is known as Canada’s broadcast pioneer, music leader and a prominent Canadian philanthropist. Through his generosity, the Foundation proactively supports charitable initiatives in the areas of healthcare, at-risk youth international development, social services and culture.

Learn more about the Family Navigation Project at Sunnybrook