Marking five years since Ontario’s Community Health Centres (CHCs) expansion

It has been nearly five years to the day since then Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, George Smitherman, announced that the Government of Ontario would be implementing the largest ever expansion of Community Health Centres (CHCs) in Ontario. The message of individual, family and community health that is achieved by CHCs, is one that continues to resonate strongly across Ontario, and in other provinces and territories. CACHCA celebrates the anniversary of this November 2005 announcement by sharing the Minister’s remarks.

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REMARKS BY THE HON. GEORGE SMITHERMAN

ONTARIO MINISTER OF HEALTH AND LONG-TERM CARE

November 10, 2005 – Malvern, Toronto

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. Two weekends ago, on October 29th, I attended a summit meeting here in Malvern with my colleague, the Honourable Mary Anne Chambers. We met with community leaders and representatives from Community Health Centres from across Toronto.

The issue that brought us all together was the recent escalation of gun violence that has been plaguing communities, particularly neighbourhoods here in Toronto. Mary Anne and I were looking for answers — for ways to help communities like these to draw on their resources and to build on their strengths. One of the solutions put forward by many people there was to expand services at existing Community Health Centres, and to create new CHCs. People understood that CHCs are part of a broader solution to gun violence.

We listened. And today we are acting on what we heard. I’m delighted to announce that our government will be investing $74.6 million over three years to expand and improve Community Health Centres.

We currently have 54 CHCs in Ontario. We’re going to fund 22 new ones, including one right here in Malvern.

Just as important as full CHCs are Satellite CHCs. Satellite CHCs are smaller centres, attuned to the needs of their communities. They are affiliated with full CHCs, but do not replicate their administrative structures. We currently have ten satellite CHCs; we’re going to be establishing 17 new ones.

This represents a 60% increase in the number of CHCs and Satellite CHCs province-wide — the largest-ever expansion of Ontario’s Community Health Centre system. That’s a significant expansion. And the reason we’re expanding CHCs so dramatically is simple: they work.  

They’re one of the most effective tools we have to address health issues – and by health issues, we don’t just mean treating people when they’re sick, we mean the entire range of factors that contribute to healthy lives and healthy communities.

As I said, we’re increasing the number of CHCs and satellite CHCs by 60%. Let me illustrate the scale of this expansion. The map you see in front of you shows the location of the existing 54 CHCs and 10 satellite CHCs. I think you can see that we already serve a pretty good cross-section of communities.

Well, we’re about to do a whole lot better. Let me start with Toronto. Over the next three years, we have approved funding for nine new CHCs and satellite CHCs, at the following locations: a full CHC here in Malvern, and new satellite CHCs in Crescent Town; at Jane-Finch; Jamestown in Rexdale; at Kipling and Dixon; Mt. Dennis-Weston; “The Peanut” at Don Mills and Finch; the Junction Triangle in the West End; and York Centre (central North York, west of Bathurst, south of Steeles)..

All of these are here in Toronto. And — as anyone familiar with these neighbourhoods knows — we’re going into some communities that have a high need for increased support. We’ve known about the challenges in these communities for some time – we all have. I’m proud to say that our government is taking action to address them. In fact, once this expansion is complete, every community identified in the Strong Neighbourhoods Report prepared by the City of Toronto and the United Way of Greater Toronto will now have a CHC or CHC satellite.

Turning to the rest of the province, in 2005-06 we’re putting new CHCs and satellites into the following communities. Full CHCs in Woodstock; Fort Erie/Port Colborne; Cornwall; Prescott-Russell; Sudbury East; and Kapuskasing. And, new satellite CHCs in Shelldale, in Guelph; Smith’s Falls; and Nepean.

In 2006-07, new CHCs are going into Chatham-Kent; St. Thomas; St. Catharines; Bramalea; Minden; Brock Township; and Belleville. And, a satellite CHC in Thunder Bay.

 In 2007-08, we’re expanding further still, putting CHCs into Markdale; Brantford; Niagara Falls; Vaughan; Port Hope; Collingwood; Midland; and Sturgeon Falls. And, satellite CHCs into Wallaceburg; Malton; Pickering; Napanee; and Trenton. That’s a long list!

In addition to new CHCs and new Satellite CHCs, we’re also increasing funding to the CHCs already operating throughout Ontario. These CHCs do terrific work, and we want them to grow. This additional funding will be for enhanced capacity building, to enable them to hire additional staff, and to enhance programming.

As you look at this map, you get a sense of the breadth of coverage our network of new and existing CHCs and Satellite CHCs will provide. And to anyone who’s familiar with some of these new locations — particularly in the Toronto area — it’s clear that these neighbourhoods are in a position to benefit from enhanced services. To put it more simply, they’re neighbourhoods that are often called “at-risk”.

One thing we’ve learned over the years is that there are no simple solutions to problems like gun violence. I know this from experience in my own riding of Toronto Centre-Rosedale where, long before I became an MPP, I was active in community issues in Regent Park and St. James Town.

The only effective way to take on these problems is through an integrated approach – an approach that addresses the many factors that cause neighbourhoods to decline, or individual’s lives to go off the rails. CHCs aren’t a magic cure-all for the challenges facing neighbourhoods. But they’re certainly a part of the answer – a big part. CHCs offer programs to improve lives and strengthen communities.

For example, the Black Creek CHC runs a very successful program called Students Against Violence. The West Hill CHC, here in Scarborough, operates an anger management program for special needs youth, and a young women’s self esteem group. And in my riding, the Regent Park CHC has developed a program that is quite literally changing the community. It’s called Pathways to Education. Simply put, it puts students on a pathway to opportunity.

These, of course, are just examples. There’s no one model, no set list of things that CHCs can or cannot do. That’s part of their strength. But what CHCs always do is build community capacity. They help foster a sense of what can be done when people in communities pull together — and we need that sense right now. This investment of $75 million will help communities throughout this province to do just that – pull together to develop solutions to the issues they face.

One of our government’s health care goals from the very beginning has been to get out of “micro-managing.” We want to put real decision-making power where it belongs: in the communities… close to patients… close to real people. That’s the thinking that underlies our Local Health Integration Networks. It’s the thinking that also underlies our Family Health Teams. And it’s the thinking that underlies what The Globe and Mail recently called “Medicare’s best-kept secret”: Community Health Centres.

CHCs aren’t new. We didn’t invent the concept. In fact, they’ve existed in Canada since the 1920s. But today’s announcement will raise them to an entirely new level.

I’m tremendously proud of the work CHCs are doing across the province; the primary health care services they provide to more than 300,000 Ontarians and the community capacity building that directly and indirectly benefits us all.

We want to see more of that, from our existing CHCs, from new CHCs and from new Satellite CHCs. And this announcement will make it possible for about 200,000 additional Ontarians to receive care.

Thank you.