Response to Emails from the supporters of the “Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance”:
Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the mental health and addiction crisis in Ontario. I agree that it is best described as a crisis. Consider some numbers your organization probably knows well. 15-21% of children and youth in Ontario have at least one mental health issue, while only 25% of people with mood and anxiety disorders get treatment. From an economic point of view, mental illnesses and addictions cost Ontario at least $39 billion a year in funding and lost productivity.
But numbers alone fail to do justice to the situation. We, like you, want Ontario to deliver the best quality healthcare in Canada and the world, which includes support for mental health and addiction programs.
Our goal is a sustainable public health care system that provides every Ontarian with access to the quality health care they require, when and where they need it.
The December 2010 report to the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care entitled “Respect, Recovery, Resilience: Recommendations for Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy” made recommendations in line with our Green Party beliefs and policies.
First, that we must acknowledge the importance of an all encompassing solution. Mental health and addiction is not just a health care issue. It’s deeply connected to social and economic problems. Citizens with mental illness are often denied housing, have trouble finding jobs, miss out on educational opportunities, and can find themselves falling through the cracks of the justice system.
All Ontarians, rural and urban, deserve quality community health services. The Green Party believes that no one knows the needs of a community like that community itself. That’s why we want to make sure communities have input into decisions on local healthcare services.
Bringing it closer to home, we need only look at the results of poorly implemented deinstitutionalization of the “Queen Street Centre for Addictions and Mental Health” and other such government institutions.
Although deinstitutionalization in favour of community care fits with our Green philosophy, it needs to be done properly. Since 2001 there’s been a ten fold increase in the number of community treatment orders issued, but no one has been following these discharged patients into the community to ensure they can access peer support and community advocacy services.
Towards that end, the Green party will re-prioritize funding to support doctors and other health professionals for family/community care clinics that are integrated with public health. This includes investing $1.6 billion over four years in family and community care clinics and practices that team doctors with nurses, other healthcare practitioners, including psychologists and counsellors.
We also understand that providing good, affordable housing to those who need it, when they need it, is intertwined with health care and poverty concerns. Like access to health care services, we believe the Ontario government needs to assist in the development of supportive housing in order to make it more accessible to those directly in need.
Another related area is education. Lots of children are put in special education programs when they actually need mental health assistance. We need to provide appropriate educational support for those just entering the school system all the way up to those struggling to retrain themselves to compete for jobs because of the time they’ve missed while getting help for health-related issues.
Finally, the “Respect, Recovery, Resilience” report calls for the establishment of a mental health and addiction council. Similar to the way the Ontario Cancer Care Plan works, we believe establishing a provincial body to oversee the reforms that are necessary and to ensure they are fairly and consistently available to all residents of the province is the right step.
These issues have touched me personally. In my capacity as a community leader I’ve established a national initiative called Secular Organizations for Sobriety, a recovery program for alcoholics and others suffering from addictions which has proven successful for many individuals who were not able to find help elsewhere.
I’d like to leave you with a video address I prepared on this issue, which I invite you to circulate to your friends and supporters.
Thank you for taking the time to write to us. You can find out more about our platform at www.itstimeforgreen.ca, or by requesting that a booklet be sent to you by filling out this form here.