NDP – Counselling and therapy under OHIP means about $200 per visit saved

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Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath with Party's campaign bus

Horwath’s NDP will deliver Universal Mental Health Care

PARIS — With Andrea Horwath and the NDP, people will be able to make a counselling or therapy appointment at no cost, saving about $200 a visit — at a time when more and more people could use some mental health support.

“Mental health care is health care, and you should not have to pay $200 every time you need it,” said Horwath. “We’re going to fix it. With my plan, you’re going to be able to see a counsellor or therapist when you need to, with no cost. Just like going to your family doctor.

“Coming out of the pandemic, I hear from a lot of parents who say they see a personality change in their little ones. And isolation, loss, grief or financial stress has hit so many of us. We all should have access to mental health support — no matter the size of your wallet.”

With Horwath’s Universal Mental Health Care plan, counselling and therapy will be covered by an OHIP card, not a credit card, and publicly funded mental health services will be expanded and more accessible. The NDP’s comprehensive plan includes a suite of investments and changes to give the mental health and addictions sector more staff, resources and coordination, including the creation of Mental Health Ontario.

For Grade 9 student Mya MacLeod, that would make a big difference. “We want access to trusted adults to talk to. That can help us cope and give us strategies to thrive. Sometimes we need that help right now. Hearing Andrea’s strong commitment to our mental wellness today gives me hope.”

The NDP plan includes:

  • Ensuring public access to psychotherapy for everyone, saving about $200 per visit for counselling or therapy.
  • Implementing the Make Kids Count Action Plan as laid out by the Children’s Health Coalition, and reducing the waitlist for children’s mental health to 30 days.
  • Introducing targeted hospital funding to increase the number of Tier 5 treatment beds for people with complex needs.
  • Investing $10 million more into mobile crisis services and $7 million more for safe bed programs to support mobile crisis teams.
  • Funding primary care doctors, nurses, psychologists, psychotherapists, and social workers to be trained in a wide range of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies to increase the number of available, affordable, and culturally appropriate CBT practitioners.

At least one in four Ontarians sought mental health or addictions help during the pandemic. Counselling is the service most commonly needed. Psychotherapists, psychologists, nurses and social workers can offer therapy, but unless they are part of a family health team it’s not covered by OHIP.

Brandon Westbrook, Brantford

“My mental health journey has been a long and hard fight. Constant battles not just for support, but to even feel like I’m worth supporting. Even something as simple as a short written statement, seems like a herculean task at times. The way our mental health services are set up now, make it near impossible for the average Ontarian to get the support we direly need. People shouldn’t have to be on the razor’s edge of collapse, just to have access to that care. That’s why I support Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP’s plan to incorporate mental health services into OHIP, and make it easier to get that care.”

Mya MacLeod, Paris, 15 years old in Grade 9

“Being a student during the pandemic was hard. We were disconnected during online learning and didn’t have a lot of extra help when we got back to the classroom. Mental health is one of our biggest problems.

It shouldn’t be this hard. Doug Ford’s cuts hurt. His broken systems don’t work for me, and they don’t work for my friends.

That’s why I was so excited to hear that Andrea Horwath was coming to Paris today to make commitments to children’s mental health. We want access to trusted adults to talk to. That can help us cope and give us strategies to thrive. Sometimes we need that help right now. Hearing Andrea’s strong commitment to our mental wellness today gives me hope.”

Inge MacLeod, Paris, elementary school teacher and mom of Mya

“Mental health is directly related to our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. Working in public education, I’ve seen mental health problems arise at a young age and if left untreated can snowball over time. This leads to more difficulties later on in life.

When folks in Ontario reach out for help with their mental health, they need to know that the right supports will be available to them without delay.

Many families, especially low income households, face barriers to traditional mental health services in a clinical setting. These barriers often include cost and transportation issues.

Right now, in Ontario we have long wait times, high out-of-pocket costs, and shortages of health care professionals. Doug Ford’s Conservatives made massive cuts in planned mental health spending and allowed the wait list for child and youth mental health services to double.

The NDP and Andrea Horwath’s commitment to reduce the wait list for children’s mental health means that treatment and specialized services for families will be more readily available. Currently, students in crisis are sent to hospital emergencies. A 24-hour crisis support service would ensure children and youth experiencing a crisis have an appropriate alternative.

Universal, publicly funded mental health care would expand access to counselling and therapy services across the province by bringing therapy services into OHIP. We need organizations that will take the lead in identifying and publicly reporting on mental health needs, developing a comprehensive wait list for services, and making sure that mental health programs are delivered equitably across the province.”

Paul Dinola, Brantford, father of Aaron Dinola

“On Nov. 6, 2021, my son passed away. The initiative of the NDP with regards to mental health and addictions will go a long way in seeing that hopefully this will not happen again, as many are
falling through the cracks.

It is my wish to see that this does not happen to anyone else as families are suffering. Our children will ultimately suffer if we don’t rectify this issue.

As I’ve said before change is going to come, because together we are stronger. With the help of the NDP hopefully this will start a new conversation with regards to our mental health and addiction crisis.”

Background

Universal Mental Health Care

Andrea Horwath and the NDP will start by expanding access to counselling and therapy services across the province:

  • The NDP will ensure public access to psychotherapy for everyone.
  • At six and again at 12 sessions, patients and their therapist will determine if they should move to more complex care.
  • The NDP will fund primary care doctors, nurses, community health care workers, and social workers to be trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to increase the number of available, affordable, and culturally appropriate CBT practitioners.
  • The NDP will focus on expanding the existing Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program working with existing community-based providers to bring them into the publicly funded system and grow networks of interdisciplinary teams for mental health care.
  • The Ontario NDP will introduce legislation that recognizes mental health is as important as physical health and ensures that mental health services provided by qualified health care professionals and community health workers are insured through OHIP, whether they are provided in a hospital or community health centre.

Fixing the mental health system

  • The mental health system is described by advocates as fragmented and disconnected. Vital information, oversight and planning needs to be in place.
  • The NDP will create Mental Health Ontario, a new co-ordinating organization that will take the lead on identifying and publicly reporting on mental health needs, developing a comprehensive wait list for services, bring in province-wide mental health standards, creating a basket of services, and making sure that mental health and addiction programs are delivered comprehensively across Ontario.

Reducing the wait-list for children’s mental health to 30 days

  • There are now over 28,000 children and youth waiting for mental health treatment, up from 12,000 in 2017. Children and youth can wait up to 2.5 years for mental health care. The average wait time is two months for counselling and over three months for intensive treatment.
  • A Horwath government will implement the Make Kids Count Action Plan as laid out by the Children’s Health Coalition.

Supportive Housing

  • The Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council has recommended that tens of thousands of supportive housing units be built for people living with mental health and addictions challenges.
  • In the NDP’s Homes You Can Afford housing plan, Andrea Horwath lays out her plan to deliver 60,000 new homes with supports.

Strengthening the sector

  • An NDP government will provide an immediate eight per cent funding boost for Canadian Mental Health Association branches and provide ongoing sustainable funding. This would equal a $24 million increase in 2022-23.
  • The NDP will introduce targeted hospital funding to increase the number of Tier 5 treatment beds for people with complex needs. The high rates of comorbidity between serious mental illnesses and common physical health conditions and substance use pose additional risks [2].

Improving Crisis Response

  • An NDP government will immediately invest $10 million more into mobile crisis services and $7 million more for safe bed programs to support mobile crisis teams.
  • Then, work towards establishing 24-hour civilian community mobile teams across the province to operate in partnership with Mobile Crisis Response Teams and respond to low-risk crisis situations.

Costing

  • Universal publicly funded mental health care: An NDP government will get to work immediately to expand therapy access with a $500 million investment. When fully implemented, the estimated cost of providing this coverage will be $1.15 billion annually.
  • Reduce the wait-list for children’s mental health by implementing the “Make Kids Count” Action Plan.
  • Strengthening the Sector: The annual funding boost for Canadian Mental Health Association Branches will require $24 million in annual increased investment.
  • Improving Crisis Response: An immediate and ongoing annual investment increase of $17 million for mobile crisis teams and safe beds.
  • Experts estimate that every $1 invested into a mental health care program would yield, on average, $2 in savings to society (from a low-end $1.78 to an estimated high of $3.15). The full economic impact of an investment in a universal mental health program has the potential to save the Ontario economy more than $10 billion over the next five years by the most conservative estimates [3]. Savings are realized in several areas, including social services, emergency services and justice.
  • Because Andrea Horwath and the NDP are committing to a universal program, businesses that offer health insurance or health spending plans now will realize some savings, as well.