April 15th, 2021

NDP MPPs hold town hall on Portuguese mental health clinic closure

York South—Weston – NDP MPPs Faisal Hassan (York South—Weston) and Teresa Armstrong (London—Fanshawe) hosted a town hall meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the impact on Toronto's Portuguese community of the closure of a longstanding Portuguese-language mental health services at Toronto Western Hospital.

The MPPs were joined by Cidalia Pereira, Supervisor of Counselling Services at Abrigio Centre, an organization that serves Toronto’s Portuguese community, and Dr. Jose Silveria, an associate professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, who was instrumental in developing the clinic.

“Ontario is a very diverse province. Instead of taking the model of a language-specific clinic and branching out to bring similar services in different languages to other groups, to remove more barriers to mental health care to more people, the government of Ontario is allowing this important service to close. It comes as a shock,” said MPP Armstrong, who is the first woman of Portuguese-Canadian heritage to be elected to the Ontario legislature.

MPP Hassan said the Portuguese-speaking community in his riding of York South-Weston continues to grow, with residents from diverse countries such as Angola and Brazil. He stressed that the Ford government should expand vital, language-specific mental health services like the Portuguese Mental Health and Addiction Services, rather than allow them to close.

“The ability to speak to someone in your own language is very important [for mental health care],” Pereira said. “The pandemic has shown us just how important mental health is to an individual’s overall well-being. As more and more people look for support, the government must ensure that mental health services in a variety of languages are accessible and well-funded.”

“To take a program that is really a model in terms of community mental health and addictions, and to eliminate it, it has an enormous impact,” Silveria said.