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Ontario Connecting Youth to Specialized Mental Health Care in Waterloo Region

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WATERLOO REGION — The Ontario government is investing $2.5 million each year to connect youth living in the Region of Waterloo to specialized mental health care where they need it, closer to home. This investment will enable the creation of a new step-up step-down live-in treatment program that supports youth in their transition home from inpatient hospital or secure treatment care, to less intensive community-based services.

“Mental health care is a vital aspect of our healthcare ecosystem that informs how much an individual at any age can cope with and be resilient to the many challenges that come up in our day-to-day world,” said Mike Harris, Member of Provincial Parliament for Kitchener-Conestoga. “Our kids and youth especially deserve every chance at a successful start to their lives, and I’m extremely grateful to the Ministries of Health and Mental Health for making Starling’s Step-Up Step-Down treatment program a priority for our kids and their families in the Region.”

The funding for Starling Community Services (formerly Lutherwood Children’s Mental Health Centre in Waterloo) will help provide up to six months of full-time live-in treatment services for youth aged 12 to 17 living with intensive mental health needs. Step-up step-down programs meet the needs of youth who require support to step-up into more intensive services, or to step-down from hospital or secure treatment care to less intensive community-based services.

“This is an exciting and important investment in children's mental health,” said John Colangeli, CEO Starling Community Services. “When children and youth are in a mental health crisis, they can’t wait for help. The Step Up, Step Down program will reduce the wait for children and youth by opening up hospital beds for those who need them, and by enabling those with escalating mental health struggles to access support before they reach the point of needing emergency care.”

“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 youth and their families who are experiencing mental health challenges,” said Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “By investing in specialized services for youth, we are breaking down barriers to mental health care in communities across the province so they can connect with the care they need closer to home.”

“By continuing to expand the number of step-up step-down programs, we are ensuring youth across the province have convenient access to the highest quality mental health care when they need it,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The new program in Waterloo Region will connect young people in this community to the care they need when they need it most.”

Through Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care, the Ontario government is supporting enhanced mental health care for children and youth in communities across the province – ensuring Ontarians of all ages can connect to the fast, convenient care they need closer to home.


  • Ontario is creating and expanding step-up step-down programs provided by partner organizations, including Compass, Boussole, Akii-Izhinoogan Mental Health, Developmental and Community Services for Children, Youth and Families in Sudbury, Starling Community Services in Waterloo, Humana Community Services in London, and Keystone Child Youth and Family Services in Owen Sound, bringing the total to six across the province.
  • 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 building on its work through the Roadmap by investing an additional $396 million over three years to expand, stabilize and improve access to existing mental health and addictions services and programs across the province.
  • Ontario is making is faster and easier for youth to access mental health and substance abuse support through Youth Wellness Hubs, with 10 new hubs recently added to the network of 22 already opened since 2020, bringing the total to 32 across the province. Youth Wellness Hubs provide integrated mental health, substance use and primary care, services in a safe, youth-friendly space.


Ontario Connecting Children and Youth to Mental Health Care Close to Home
Your Health: A Plan for Connected and Convenient Care
Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System

"I didn’t notice it at the time, but Lutherwood was an instrumental part of my development growing up.”