01/28/2014 10:59 EST | Updated 03/30/2014 05:59 EDT

Ontario puts $20M over six years into helping treat mental and physical illness

TORONTO - The province says it is joining forces with several partners to help people get treatment for mental and physical illness.

Health Minister Deb Matthews announced Tuesday the newly created Medical Psychiatry Alliance which will offer support across the province.

She says the government will spend up to $20 million over the next six years to lead the initiative.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Trillium Health Partners, the University of Toronto and a private donor are putting in the rest of the money, for a total of $60 million to create the alliance.

The initiative involves developing new screening and diagnostic tools, ensuring physical and mental illnesses are treated simultaneously and developing specialized clinical training for medical students.

The province says more than 1.3 million Ontarians experience physical illness combined with mental illness.

The announcement comes on Bell Canada’s Let’s Talk Day, which raises funds for mental health awareness across the country.

"The reality is lots of people with mental illness also have serious physical illness, and if they aren't treated together, we just don't provide the highest quality care," Matthews said.

Researching and testing new ways to deliver psychiatric care at home is also part of the initiative.