Ontario revamps mental health services

Posted on March 3, 2020 in Health Delivery System

Source: — Authors:

TheStar.com – Politics/Provincial Politics

Ontario’s plan to revamp mental health services with a new agency to focus on cutting long wait times is just talk unless it’s backed up with “substantial and immediate” funding of almost $400 million in Premier Doug Ford’s spring budget, mental health groups warn.

The comments came Tuesday after Health Minister Christine Elliott unveiled a road map to fixing problems that leave people in crisis “feeling lost in a system defined by its complexity.”

Her plan includes a mental health Centre of Excellence, to function like Cancer Care Ontario has done over the years to make the provincial cancer system more responsive, as a “single point of accountability” to improve wait times and boost service levels.

There is also a new program called “Mindability” that will offer cognitive behavioural therapy to people over the age of 10 who are suffering from depression and anxiety, and an “easy-to-remember” toll-free hotline providing one-stop shopping for help and referrals.

“We need to take the guesswork out of finding support,” Elliott said at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health in Whitby, warning improvements in all services “will take time.”

While the promises have the potential to “transform” mental health and addictions care, nothing will happen without at least $380 million extra funding annually, said a coalition of groups including the Canadian Mental Health Association and Addictions and Mental Health Ontario.

“A 12-year-old with suicidal ideation needing intensive mental health services can’t afford to wait for two years,” the groups said in a statement that noted people suffering from repeat overdoses can wait 18 months for residential addictions treatment and schizophrenics can be stuck in the shelter system for two years before getting supportive housing.

Opposition parties welcomed the $20 million to be spent next year on “Mindability” but said that’s a relatively small amount of money to pledge after the Ford government cut $330 million from mental health spending in its budget last spring.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “A lot more needs to be done.”

Health ministry officials would not disclose other planned expenditures for the revamping of mental health, saying numbers will be in the upcoming budget to be presented within weeks.

“If we’re going to address the mental health crisis we need to put some money behind it because we need practitioners to provide services that people can access,” said Green Leader Mike Schreiner.

He applauded the Centre of Excellence but added “it’s not going to make a difference if they don’t adequately fund it.”

Elliott said the government increased mental health spending by $174 million last year and has pledged $1.9 billion over 10 years.

“Mindability” will be covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan and marks a “significant departure” from the way mental health care has been provided in the country, she added.

Until now, most one-on-one therapy under OHIP has been with psychiatrists and resulted in long wait times, leaving people on their own to pay hundreds of dollars for sessions with psychologists if they don’t have private benefits coverage.

“That’s out of the reach of most people,” Elliott said.

It’s not clear how many people will be able to access the Mindability program, whose $20 million budget for the fiscal year starting in April will allow it to expand from pilot-project locations at psychiatric hospitals in Toronto, Whitby, Muskoka and Ottawa.

The funding will be maximized by providing online and telephone counselling as well as face-to-face group therapy and individual therapy, said ministry officials.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics.


Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 at 5:41 pm and is filed under Health Delivery System. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply