Grassroots Movement Spreads Across Ontario to Put Election Spotlight on Mental Health Policies
90 groups unite to urge Ontario’s political parties to prioritize mental health and addictions
Toronto – Ninety organizations throughout Ontario have added their voices to the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance to urge the political parties to commit to improving care and support for people living with a mental health condition and/or addiction. Supporters, from Windsor to Thunder Bay, include hospitals, provincial associations, community health centres, consumer/survivor groups, community organizations, LGBT groups and peer support organizations.
“Young Ontarians start college and university at an age when the first signs and symptoms of mental illness often begin,” says Chris McGrath, President, Canadian Association of College & University Student Services. “We call on the next provincial government to partner with mental health service providers to ensure these students can thrive.”
All three major political parties, in endorsing the Ontario Legislature’s Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions, have agreed that “Ontario needs a comprehensive mental health and addictions plan.” Yet, a report released by the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance in May showed that timely access to treatment and support largely depends on where people live, leaving Ontarians struggling to get the care they deserve.
“Every day we see that community resources for youth-at-risk are limited and, if they exist, have long wait times,” says Jodie Bala, General Manager, Orillia Youth Social Enterprise Corp. “The young people who come to us want to improve their lives but the lack of resources makes it difficult for them and for the organizations trying to support them.”
More than 2.5 million Ontarians live with a mental illness and/or addiction. Millions more – family members, friends and co-workers – are also affected. Data show that access to treatment and care is uneven across the province, and wait times are far too long.
- Across Ontario’s health regions, spending per person for community mental health ranges from $18.54 to $124.78;
- Children and youth wait from 22 to 100 days for a mental health assessment;
- Young people wait three to six months for addictions treatment, if it is locally available;
- Ontarians wait, on average, 267 days for supportive housing, with people in some regions waiting more than three years.
“We see increasing pressures on families throughout northwestern Ontario,” says Bastian De Peuter, Executive Director, North of Superior Counselling Programs. “Mental health and addiction issues have a huge effect on our health system. More resources must be available in community-based mental health and addiction programs with a greater focus on crisis intervention, prevention and early intervention.”
The Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance, and its supporters, are asking the political parties to begin to solve the most pressing challenges by acting in four priority ways:
- Invest in mental health and addictions services to provide equitable access to a basket of core services across Ontario;
- Reduce wait times to ensure that children and youth are getting timely access to treatment;
- Improve access to supportive housing across Ontario;
- Put government leadership in place to co-ordinate action across ministries and sectors.
“Long wait lists for mental health services should no longer be acceptable. We need to ensure that families and individuals have access to mental health services as we do for physical health,” says George Weber, President and CEO, Royal Ottawa Mental Health Group.
“Organizations and Ontarians from all walks of life are coming together out of common concern, with recommendations to address the huge gaps in care and support for people living with a mental health condition or addiction,” says Mary Alberti, CEO, Schizophrenia Society of Ontario. “We hope that our voices will move all parties to commit to act on our recommendations.”
Ontarians are invited to join the movement to make mental health and addictions a priority by sending a letter via email to the party leaders and local candidates, available on the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance website, www.vote4mha.ca. The full list of organizations supporting the Alliance’s asks can also be found here.
About the Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance (www.vote4mha.ca): The Alliance is a broadly based coalition of provincial organizations from across the continuum of care – from community to hospital services and consumer and family organizations.
To arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Mood Disorders Association, (416) 486-8046 ext. 232, (647) 771-5815 (cell)