Sara Dias is gathering signatures on a petition. She's lobbying for equal funding to improve local services for mental health.

"We know that when we need medical care, there's no specific wait time when we go to emerg to receive that type of care. There's obviously a wait time to see a specialist or an individual at emerg. With mental health services, it's not the same thing," she said, as she gathered signatures.

Earlier in the week, candidates from the different parties were asked to address the issue of mental health funding. Glen Archer of the NDP says funding is also an important issue on the campaign trail this spring.

"Sadly, while we have the highest mental health needs among children and youth, we also have the longest wait times and lowest rates for mental health visits for all physician types. This is heartbreaking. It has to change," he said.

The party platform lists an investment of nearly $2.4 billion over four years. If elected, they would add 2,600 new mental health care workers, including 400 new mental health care workers to provide supports in every high school

Both the Liberals and Conservatives say they're both willing to invest in mental health. Although they disagree about how much is needed.

Tory nominee Greg Rickford pointed to a budget decrease in spending, which his party has identified in the provincial government's spring budget.

"That means there is a problem, folks," he told the audience, during last week's all-candidates' forum. "That means there is a lack of access to mental health services in our region and across the province, as a result of this government."

The Progressive Conservatives have pledged $1.9 billion over 10 years. Party leader Doug Ford says their investment would double to $3.8 billion, when matched with money from Ottawa.

Liberal candidate Karen Kejick notes one in three across the province will need mental health services, and the number was higher in Northern Ontario.

Kejick said the current budget at Queen's Park is committing $2.1 billion over four years for mental health,

Sue Devlin is the mental health lead at the Kenora Catholic District School Board, and she sees encouraging signs.

"All communities have their struggles," she said last week, following a meeting with trustees. "Kenora's very unique in how well our community agencies do work together."

The Kenora partners say they've had 67 cases referred to the situation table over the last year. In 85 per cent of the cases, the partners say they've been able to de-escalate the situation without further harm to the youth.

Devlin says their new situation table has been very helpful at de-escalating urgent situations among youth. She estimated between one and three youth present themselves at Lake of the Woods District Hospital every day with mental health needs.

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