MTO not considering bridge netting

As the Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition considers ways of addressing concerns about recent suicides, including two recent deaths at the Burgoyne Bridge, the Ministry of Transportation is not considering adding suicide prevention barriers to any of the bridges along provincial highways.

In an e-mail, Ben Snair — the manager of legislative affairs and MPP liaison for Transportation Minister John Yakabuski — said the ministry “takes safety of the travelling public very seriously.”

However, he added, there are more than 1,200 provincial bridges in the ministry’s Central Region area alone, and the ministry “works hard to enhance the safety of our infrastructure.”

Although the Niagara Region is responsible for the Burgoyne Bridge which carries traffic over a provincial highway, and is considering adding suicide prevention netting among a range of suicide prevention strategies, Snair said the ministry is not following suit.

“At this time the ministry is not looking into installing netting as prevention systems on our bridges,” he said.

However, he said the provincial government is instead making mental health a priority, by investing $3.8 billion in mental health, addictions and housing supports in the next decade – “the biggest provincial commitment to mental health in Canadian history.”

“Our government will continue to make mental health a priority and work toward creating an Ontario where everyone is fully supported in their journey toward mental wellness,” he added.

Meanwhile, Niagara Health executive vice-president Linda Boich said senior members of the health system’s mental healthcare team are planning to participate in a meeting next Wednesday of the Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition, “to supporting and contributing to the discussion about suicide prevention.”

“We know the community is hurting and that many people are justifiably concerned about the number of suicides and attempted suicides in our region,” she said in a statement, Friday. “We share these concerns.”

Boich also called the coalition’s decision to immediately install signs that offers mental health crisis support information “a positive step forward.”