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Ontario Hansard - 14-September2017

MINISTRY OF MENTAL HEALTH AND ADDICTIONS ACT, 2017 / LOI DE 2017 SUR LE MINISTÈRE DE LA SANTÉ MENTALE ET DES DÉPENDANCES

Madame Gélinas moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 149, An Act to establish the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions / Projet de loi 149, Loi créant le ministère de la Santé mentale et des dépendances.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for her presentation.

Mme France Gélinas: I am delighted that this afternoon members from all three parties will have an opportunity to talk about mental health and addictions. This is not a topic that is talked about very often in this Legislative Assembly, but it is one that is very important.

I remember when in 2009 this Legislative Assembly decided to accept the recommendations for a Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions. At the time I had only been here for about two years. I was coming out of 25 years in health care and I sort of thought, “Well, you know, I’ve seen quite a bit of it.” Really, Speaker, I had seen nothing and I knew nothing. For the next 18 months, we heard from 230 people about the failings of our mental health and addictions system. We learned of horrific and catastrophic outcomes because our mental health and addictions system had failed people, had failed families.

Our recommendations came out in 2010, in the final report called Navigating the Journey to Wellness: The Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan for Ontarians. All three parties stood together. Our number one recommendation was quite simple: to create Mental Health and Addictions Ontario—very much along the lines of Cancer Care Ontario—that would be responsible for giving mental health and addictions a home.

The first recommendation also was to determine a basket of mental health and addictions services that would be available to all Ontarians no matter their age, no matter where they lived.

Well, fast-forward to 2017. We still have about a thousand people each year who die by suicide. We have had 865 people who died by overdose just last year; that is, opioid overdose. We have 12,000 children right here right now in Ontario on wait-lists for mental health treatment. We have an Auditor General’s report of a few months back that says that, overall, 5% of all long-term-care psychiatric beds that existed five years ago have been closed.

Then yesterday, with my leader, we held a press conference. We were joined by a very brave young man. His name is Noah Irvine. Noah has lost both his mother and father to the failings of our mental health and addictions system. Noah is one of the many catastrophic outcomes, the many heartbreaking stories that we heard, and basically showed us once again that the mental health and addictions part of our health care system, a system that is so precious to all of us—that part of it is failing so many people. It is doing so poorly.

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I have the greatest of respect for the minister’s table on mental health—I think it’s called the mental health and addictions council—and the good work that they do. I know that some of their recommendations will be coming out. The problem is that this is not a transparent or accountable process to the people of Ontario.

I also know, as the minister shared with us yesterday during question period, that as recently as 10 days ago, they had a cross-ministerial table with ministers from 10 different ministries and MPPs to talk about mental health and addictions. This is great news to me. At the same time, it also worries me that those are not transparent processes. Those are not processes that are accountable to the people of Ontario. Although I support them and this is something in the right direction, I think we are ready for more.

The strength of a stand-alone mental health and addictions ministry is that, for starters, it will be transparent and we will have a minister accountable to all of us, to everybody in Ontario, who will be responsible for finding more services, more funding, more resources and more attention. It will be the single focus of this ministry. It will be the priority of this ministry at all times.

So what will a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions do?

First, it will lead the transformation of Ontario’s mental health and addiction services and build the system that we all know we want and that so many of us need. Right now, we have patches of good services here and there. We have partners at the local level that are able to work across different ministries and funding and make it work. But then one agency changes and it all falls apart. This is not a system, Speaker. We need a system.

It will also try to eliminate wait-lists and reduce wait times for people—I would say especially for children. For children, sometimes as young as six, seven or eight years old, to wait 18 months to be able to access treatment is, frankly, a lifetime. What should have been addressed and recovered from in the short term has now grown into a chronic illness with more and more ramifications for the family.

It will ensure that every Ontarian gets access to the support they need when they need it and where they need it. Because, again, some services do very good work at the local level, but those best practices are not replicated throughout our province, so it always ends up that, depending on who you are, where you are and how old you are, you may get services or you may not. We need to do better than this.

It will ensure that the recommendations from the select committee to build a real mental health and addictions system are looked at, reviewed and, hopefully, acted upon.

It will also improve Ontario’s response to emergencies like the opioid overdose crisis that is going on in our communities. I know that the Minister of Health and the ministry have listened and have promised an investment of millions of dollars more for this crisis. But you see, Speaker, the agencies that respond to get that money are actually competing against one another. And in areas of the province, like the areas that I represent, where there are no service providers, there is no way for those resources to flow to us, to become accessible to us. Why? I come back to the fact that we haven’t got a system. So although I applaud it and I am absolutely positive that this money will help, it will help some people in some areas but it will still leave a lot of people in many areas without the increased services and without the support that they need.

It will also work to end stigma. I would say that just the fact that we are talking about the importance of mental health and addiction in this Legislature is a step. There are so many other steps taking place right now.

I will talk about Sudbury for a minute, because last Sunday, on September 10, at Ramsey Lake park, we celebrated World Suicide Prevention Day. We had a butterfly release, and it was Sudbury’s way to take a minute to change a life. I know that other very nice celebrations took place throughout our province on that day, and that was really uplifting.

We’re talking about this bill in September. I hope that everybody knows that September is Recovery Month. Again, it is a great opportunity to celebrate the great victory we have done towards recovery. There are a number of events planned throughout the month of September. I encourage all of you to go to the Addictions and Mental Health Ontario website to see what is going on in your own community and to learn about those positive stories. Some of them are really heartwarming.

You see, Speaker, the most recent study shows us that 50% of the people who live with addiction, once they have access to treatment, will recover. But they have to have access to treatment to recover. All of those beautiful stories of recovery can only become true when people have access to treatment, and this is what we’re trying to do.

I see that the time is going way faster than I had hoped.

The bill is quite simple. It gives mental health and addiction a home. It makes a minister accountable to all of us on mental health and addiction. It makes mental health and addiction a priority, a single focus. It’s there to make sure that we bring more funding, more attention. We can create a mental health and addiction system in Ontario that we can all be proud of, through the creation of that ministry.

Je croix qu’avoir un ministère dédié seulement à la santé mentale et aux dépendances va nous aider à s’assurer que les services de santé mentale et des dépendances ont les ressources, le financement et l’attention dont ils ont besoin, afin de répondre aux besoins des Ontariens et Ontariennes.

Il y a des milliers de personnes qui vivent avec des problèmes de santé mentale et des problèmes de dépendance. Si on leur donne accès aux services dont ils ont besoin, 50 % d’entre eux vont aller mieux. C’est un investissement qui en vaut la peine, et j’espère qu’on peut avoir le soutien de tous les partis.

I hope I can count on everybody’s support for this private member’s bill.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?

Hon. Eric Hoskins: I want to begin with what some may think a rare occurrence, but I try to do this as frequently as I can: to applaud the NDP and my critic for health care, the member—I’m going to get it right this time—from Nickel Belt, for bringing this issue to the Legislature.

She mentioned just a few moments ago that any time this Legislature does speak about and discuss mental health, that’s important and it’s appropriate, and it’s a good day. It needs to happen, and it needs to happen more often, quite frankly.

We, as leaders within our own constituencies and as part of the elected leadership across this province, have a big responsibility to do two things: to ensure that we contribute and work towards decreasing and eventually eliminating the stigma that exists towards mental illness. But we also have a shared responsibility to make sure that as a province—and in our case, we have an added responsibility as government—we do everything we possibly can and make the right investments to ensure that we are providing the highest quality of care on mental health. I acknowledged this yesterday in question period as well. We have a long, long way to go. We have a long way to go on both those fronts. It’s a very big challenge to society, I think.

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We need to comprehend mental wellness and mental health and mental illness in a different way. We need to view it through the exact same lens as we do physical health and physical illness. Clearly, it needs a unique approach and a sensitive one, but they are two sides of the same coin—mental health and physical health—and we can’t be any less vigorous about one or the other.

Everybody imagines that you go to your primary care provider and you feel confident that if you’ve got a physical health need, you’re going to get that adequately addressed. The same can’t be said about mental health. It is as important. There can be no health without mental health.

Part of our job—of all of us as legislators—is to collectively reduce that stigma and work together. There are great examples in the recent past where we have worked together to improve the services, to mature the government and my ministry’s approach to the delivery of services and providing supports to mental health.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this is a challenging responsibility and we have a long, long way to go. It’s not, regrettably, unique to Ontario or even Canada. The entire world, really, is grappling with the challenges of mental illness. It is, however, gratifying to see, through our communities and throughout society, whether that’s through corporate leadership like Bell and their Let’s Talk Day and the individuals associated with that, whether it’s other workplaces where they’ve integrated just like we have—we teach employees first aid; there’s mental health first aid that is taught to many employees across this province. That’s how we need to begin to think about it. We need to acknowledge the leadership and those front-line health care workers, the peer support workers.

If it’s in the area of addictions, the harm reduction workers are giving it their all. They are so committed, and they’re working under very difficult circumstances, and they need more funding. All of the areas of mental health need more funding, better coordination and better integration. That’s what we have to aspire to do collectively.

It was a long preamble to say thank you for your efforts in bringing this here today and inviting this discussion. It’s an important one.

As a government, I think one of the most important things we can do is rely on the expertise and evidence that is before us and what has been brought to us, including by the select committee, an all-party effort a number of years ago. We may not quite agree on the number of recommendations that have been implemented. Some of them are also rather complex and complicated. I wish we could just flip a switch and have a recommendation implemented. Some of them take many years to do. But we’re working away, and the vast majority of those recommendations have in fact been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.

We’re also making investments in the right areas. Just this year, we were the first province or territory in the entire country to have made available publicly funded cognitive behavioural therapy and similar interventions which have a proven effectiveness and, beautifully, can be actually provided by a myriad of health care professionals. They have proven outcomes, particularly for individuals with mood disorders. There’s a treatment, a support, a therapy that exists out there.

We’ve sort of dipped our toe into the pond, saying, “We want to be the first in Canada, and we believe that we need to fund this.” It’s a program that I’m confident we’re going to grow as we see and Ontarians see just how important and how advantageous it is.

We’re also investing in supportive housing, because this is mental wellness. It’s a very broad issue when you think of the social determinants of health and you think of the factors that are responsible—or their absence is responsible—for individuals finding themselves vulnerable and in very vulnerable circumstances that may either lead to mental illness or may prevent them from recovering from an episode of mental illness. So the investment earlier this year of more than 1,000 supportive housing units across this province is another way that we’re tackling, in a broad sense, the challenge that Ontarians face when it comes to mental wellness.

As was mentioned, we had the inaugural cabinet-level meeting of a table which, at the Premier’s direction, we established on mental wellness, which covers both mental health and addictions as well, as a subcategory. We brought together all those ministers and also non-ministers to provide us with the best possible advice, including three members of the table who are also three individuals that were part of the aforementioned select committee of this Legislature.

In the last couple of minutes, if I can move to an area which I am very proud that, under my watch and my involvement as Minister of Health, I had a part in creating, and that is our leadership advisory council on mental health and addictions. It’s chaired by Susan Pigott, who is so highly regarded throughout the mental health and health care community.

If you’ll allow me, because we so rarely get this opportunity to acknowledge individuals and their contributions: As I mentioned, Susan is the chair. We constructed this advisory council to put our feet to the fire and come up, on an annual basis, with very specific and tangible recommendations on what they want us to do. In fact, CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy, was in last year’s report. They said, “We’ve got to do this.” Supportive housing was in last year’s report. It was near the top of the list, if not at the top of what we need to invest in, and we did.

Susan has a long history both with St. Christopher House and with CAMH. But importantly—and it’s not a matter of having a token individual with lived experience—we populated this council with people with lived experience. Quite frankly, they were self-declared, and I have no doubt that many of the other individuals on the council have lived experience themselves, but chose not to declare it.

There are remarkable individuals, like Pat Capponi, who is not only a psychiatric survivor, but she speaks very aptly, very well, to the social determinants. She comes from a background of an experience of poverty. Cynthia Clark, who is chair of Ontario Family Caregivers’ Advisory Network, is on this council.

We’ve got:

—Rachel Cooper, who is peer initiatives manager at Stella’s Place;

—Gail Czukar, who is the CEO of Addictions and Mental Health Ontario;

—Suzanne Filion, who is the director of strategic initiatives at Hawkesbury and District General Hospital;

—Carol Hopkins, who is the executive director of the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation;

—Kwame McKenzie, who is CEO at the Wellesley Institute;

—Mae Katt, who is a primary-care nurse practitioner—she is First Nations—working with First Nations in northern Ontario;

—Ian Manion, who is from CHEO;

—Louise Paquette, who is the CEO of the North East LHIN;

—Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association;

—Aseefa Sarang, executive director of Across Boundaries, which is an ethno-racial mental health centre in the province;

—Kathy Short, who is a mental health ASSIST lead at the Hamilton-Wentworth Board of Education;

—Peter Sloly, deputy chief of Toronto Police Services;

—Adelina Urbanski, commissioner, community and health services, regional municipality of York;

—Victor Willis, executive director of the Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre;

—Eric Windeler, founder and executive director of Jack.org, an incredible advocate for people with mental illness; and, finally,

—Catherine Zahn, CEO of CAMH.

I just wanted to give you that list to really acknowledge, and for the first time—we haven’t had an opportunity to truly acknowledge the contribution over the last almost three years that these individuals have made. Believe me, if you’ve ever had the opportunity to meet with them or speak to them—and you’re welcome to—they are keeping our feet to the fire, and they are providing direct and tangible ideas on what we need to do.

As I mentioned, their advice led directly to the funding that we have put in this year’s budget. It was their direction that led to that. They will be the first to tell you, as well, that we have a long way to go. But I think if you were to speak to this cross-section of Ontarians, when you read the list and see the backgrounds, the people with lived experience, the family members that have lost a loved one due to mental illness—and we met an incredibly courageous young man yesterday who speaks to the heart of the importance of listening to those individuals and empowering them.

But, Speaker, that’s one of the things on mental health that I’m extremely proud of. The work of those individuals is continuing, so I have no doubt that they will provide us with the guidance that we need.

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It is important—and this is not a knock against the suggestion of the party. It is important, I think, that Ontarians understand that that council has never recommended, and is not recommending, the creation of a separate ministry to look at mental health and addictions. It’s also something I can honestly say I’ve never heard from any of the many individuals and stakeholders that I’ve met with. I know that in British Columbia they have recently announced that, but for me the important thing, I think, is that we’re working together to provide better mental health in this province. That’s something we have a tremendous responsibility to do.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?

Mr. Jeff Yurek: I’m glad to be able to rise today and bring some form of clarity on our part with regard to this legislation.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the member from Nickel Belt for raising this issue. I truly believe that we need to have more discussions regarding mental health and addictions continually, not just left to private members’ business but more so around the grounds here. Collaborating together as three parties, we can work towards a better solution than what’s out there today.

I believe we’re here today with this piece of legislation because seven years ago the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions produced a report after 18 months of work. One of the purposes of this report was to spark public debate about mental health and addiction treatments in this province, as well as give the government some guidance into recommendations.

If you look at the first recommendation that came from that committee, it was about not only creating a new umbrella organization, Mental Health and Addictions Ontario, which was also brought forth by the member from London–Fanshawe in one of her private member’s bills, but also that the “mental health and addictions programs and services—for all regions of the province and for all ages, including children and youth—should be consolidated in the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.” That was the other recommendation. The government didn’t act on that. In fact, mental health and addictions remain splintered in this province. Children and youth services are an entirely different sector of the ministries.

I’m supportive of the spirit of what the member from Nickel Belt has brought forward, because we need to have this discussion. We need to fix this issue. It has been going on for too long. Mental health is not treated the same as physical health, and it needs to be.

The concern that I have heard on this piece of legislation is that creating a whole new ministry is going to take money away from much-needed services in order to create the structure of a whole new ministry, and that’s a concern of mine. I think what we need to do going forward is focus on services; focus on service improvements and creating access targets, and make sure they’re met. We don’t need to be focusing on restructuring government continually. This government has a history, over its 14 years, of spending money reconstructing itself, yet if you look at our health care system, it is failing so many Ontarians.

The other concern I have—and we’ve seen it with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services—is that this new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions will have to compete with the Ministry of Health for funding from the Ministry of Finance. It will be competing against the Ministry of Health, which is a large ministry and has expertise on ensuring that the funding comes their way. If you look at the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, we’ve seen that it’s a direct failure on our youth and children with regard to mental health.

I recently received a letter in my riding from community service agencies for children and mental health. Anago, Craigwood, CSCN, Vanier, Ways, Merrymount—they wrote me a letter saying that their funding has been frozen since 2006. So we’ve got 11 years of funding freezing, even though we have an increased demand for mental health services in this province, for youth and children especially. Their funding has been frozen, so this ministry cannot compete with the Ministry of Health in order to get the funding needed. Unfortunately, these services—they’re writing me—are meeting monthly at board meetings, struggling away just to pay staff and pay their bills. These are services that are in our community, preventing children from having to access their hospitals in ER visits, but they’re failing. They don’t have the money. I have written the Premier for some action on this issue, but to no avail; she was unresponsive.

Madam Speaker, if you look at what is occurring with our children and youth services, you’ll see that hospitalizations are up over 67%, ER visits are 63%, whereas other services for children—access to ER visits and hospitalizations—are down almost 20%. So we’re seeing that that’s a failure in the system because the government did not follow its own committee’s recommendations and bring everything under one body.

I’m going to let other members of the party speak, but I just wanted to bring that forward, that if the government had acted on this committee’s recommendations, just the very first one, we wouldn’t have to be here today debating this bill because all the services would be consolidated. There would be a focus on mental health in this province. It’s something that has been lost over the 14 years of this government, and I hope we regain it again soon.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?

Miss Monique Taylor: It’s a pleasure to be able to stand today to speak to Bill 149, brought forward by my colleague the member from Nickel Belt. I want to thank this member for her ongoing work, stemming from her participation on the Select Committee on Mental Health, to her continuous advocacy and now for bringing this bill before the Legislature that would create a stand-alone Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions.

As members will know, it was the select committee that recommended the creation of a single body to be responsible for designing, managing and coordinating Ontario’s mental health and addictions system. That was in 2010, and still nothing has been done to address the recommendation. Six of the nine members of that committee were Liberals. Four of them are now cabinet ministers. It was their recommendation, but they have done nothing about it.

As the NDP critic for children and youth services, I am made very well aware of the extreme challenges being faced by children and youth in the province of Ontario. For years, the workers have been calling for funding so that they can deliver the services our children and youth so desperately need. But the fact is, Speaker, for some reason they just cannot attract this government’s attention to an ever-growing problem. A stand-alone ministry will make sure that it gets the attention and priority it needs.

Years of underfunding have resulted in a crisis situation for children’s mental health in Ontario. There are an estimated 12,000 kids waiting for treatment at publicly funded, community-based child and youth mental health centres. In my city of Hamilton, children and youth wait up to a year for counselling, therapy or in-home services. A recent study has shown us that this has meant increased demands on our hospitals. As we heard from the previous speaker, emergency department visits for mental health disorders by children and youth went up over 63% over 10 years, and in the same period hospitalization increased by 67%.

These catastrophic results should have us ashamed, Speaker. Canada is one of the world’s richest countries, yet it has the third-highest suicide rate in the industrialized world. It is the second most common cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24. That is shameful. If you’re a First Nations youth, you are five to six times more likely to die by suicide than if you are a non-aboriginal youth.

These are the consequences of pushing children’s mental health to the background, and it’s not acceptable. The government will want to remind us of their announcement of funding in February of this year, but it’s important to understand that none of that money will actually make it to the treatment of youth with mental health. None of that money will do anything to address the 12,000 kids who are waiting more than a year for services.

Speaker, Children’s Mental Health Ontario delivers a pre-budget submission each and every year. Every time, they make a strong case for increased funding. Their argument is not just that it’s the right thing to do, because it is; it’s also that it’s a strategic investment in our children and youth, in their mental health. It will actually save money on our hospitals. In 2016, they pointed to $65 million annually, which would actually save the province an estimated $700 million over the next five years.

Over the years, these submissions have fallen on deaf ears, and that has to change. That is why I am delighted to support this private member’s bill for a stand-alone Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions: a minister who has a seat at the table and is not distracted by other demands of their ministry.

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The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?

Mr. Jim McDonell: I’m proud to stand and speak to Bill 149, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions Act.

Speaker, one of the greatest frustrations that I have experienced since becoming an MPP is the lack of mental health services for my residents of Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry. Let us be clear: This Liberal government has failed this vulnerable sector and their families desperate for help.

The local police services report that a major portion of their time is taken up dealing with people with mental health issues—spending hours in an already crowded hospital emergency department, sitting with their clients waiting to be admitted, taking a number as more serious cases are dealt with. In addition to the cost to municipal governments and the health care system, it is the wrong way to deal with serious mental health issues.

Personal friends have been to my office, after spending years dealing with mental health and legal agencies, trying to get help for their family members. They are tired of the lack of available medical professionals and the long wait-lists.

In Cornwall, the government has brought most of the agencies providing mental health services under one roof. I believe the initiative has a lot of merit, and I applauded the government for this project. In theory, all the services that the patient needs are provided by professionals just down the hall, basically a one-stop shop.

But not too long ago, I was invited to the kick-off breakfast to highlight this new and bold initiative. The chief of staff rose to account for all the merits of this trial and the successes that one would expect with the creation of this new service hub. He talked to the ability of dealing with clients who walk in desperately needing help to be assessed and then accessing the required professionals just down the hall.

But reality quickly set in when a member of the public raised his hand to ask a question. He said, “Do you mean that if my family member is diagnosed as requiring a psychologist, he will be able to get the service?” The doctor’s enthusiasm quickly disappeared, and he responded, “Sadly, no. We just don’t have the resources.”

Speaker, after spending so much money on bricks and mortar, we do not have the money to properly fund and staff the operation. Like so many expensive plans from this Liberal government, the promised goals will never be met, and more families will be left to deal with the problems on their own.

In my riding, just like the rest of Ontario, we are experiencing a rash of suicides and many cases of addiction and poverty-related cases. We need the services that Ontarians have grown to expect and deserve.

We look at the long waiting lists and the issues that we’ve been seeing the last number of years. A couple of years ago, we had a meeting with numerous not-for-profits, the services sector and others, and their message was clear: “We have not received any funding increases in the last five years.” So as we see the demand skyrocket, how can we expect this demand to be met if we aren’t putting the necessary funds in?

While I agree that we need to put some attention here, and I think this ministry might do that, I am concerned that the bureaucracy will just tie up the money as well. But we will be supporting this.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?

Ms. Peggy Sattler: I’m pleased to rise in support of my colleague’s private member’s bill to create a stand-alone ministry for mental health and addictions. One of the reasons that the member presented for bringing forward this initiative is the fact that we currently have 11 different ministries in this province that are involved in some way or another in the delivery of mental health services. This leads to system fragmentation. It leads to a lack of system coordination. This initiative creating a stand-alone ministry would address those concerns.

I’m going to focus, in the brief time that I have, on four of these ministries that are delivering mental health services that have a direct and very immediate impact on my community of London West.

First, of course, we have the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health funds hospitals, as we know, but, as I have said here in this Legislature numerous times, the funding that is provided to our hospitals is not sufficient to address the needs of our community. In my city of London, we have had people waiting for a week or more on a hallway stretcher in the London Health Sciences Centre emergency room, waiting for a mental health bed. That is unacceptable, it is inhumane and it cannot continue in this province of Ontario.

Just two hours ago, the London Free Press posted another story: “London ER Waits Reach All-Time Worst for Patients Needing Beds in Understaffed Psychiatric Ward.” This has reached such a crisis, is such an emergency, that London Health Sciences Centre has asked for 24 additional beds to accompany the 74 psychiatric beds that are currently available. They have identified the need for a 32% increase in beds in my community.

We also have the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which is funding children’s mental health. This week, on Monday, my first day back in the Legislature, I raised the issue of the crisis in children’s mental health in my community. This summer, I met with seven of the agencies that provide these services. These agencies are not even looking at what services they can cut; they’re looking at how they will even be able to continue to operate, because the level of funding has not kept up with the need for services in my community.

Within my caucus, I am critic for advanced education and skills development. There is a crisis in campus mental health across this province. Last academic year at the University of Guelph, four young people died by suicide. We have post-secondary institutions trying desperately to meet this need and trying to become mental health service providers, but they are crying for assistance from this government.

And finally, in our schools we are seeing—in Woodstock, we saw five young people who were attending Thames Valley schools die by suicide over a period of months. We have an epidemic of violence in our schools that has been identified by educators because young people are not getting the mental health services that they require.

This stand-alone ministry would enable the kind of coordination and integration that is necessary to address this problem and move our province forward.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?

Ms. Sylvia Jones: I’m happy to speak to this. As many of you know, I leave the select committee report in my desk because I don’t want to forget about it and I don’t want the government to forget about the fact that many members of this Legislature took a lot of time and care to try to bring some very positive recommendations forward.

I want to talk about Noah. The member from Nickel Belt and the leader raised the issue of Noah from Guelph. I don’t know Noah, but when I heard that he came from Guelph, I was struck for two reasons. For those of you who know Guelph, there is an excellent, excellent facility in Guelph called Homewood. If Noah’s family, in a community that actually has very good service, struggled and didn’t get help, then imagine what it’s like in our rural populations, in northern Ontario. Those are the stories that I remember and I think about and those are the stories that really struck, from families who appeared, who took that step that Noah did, which had to be incredibly challenging.

He’s dealing with a very personal tragedy. He’s making that public and saying, “I want to make sure that other young people and other families don’t have to go through what I had to go through with my mother and father.” I give him huge kudos for doing that. But Guelph is served a lot better than many parts of the province.

I asked—I lobbied, I demanded—to be on this select committee, because when I became an MPP, among the first constituents I dealt with was a family that was trying to get service for their young son. He was going to age out of the child and youth system before he even got assessed. What kind of service and what kind of Ontario do we have where someone who is actively seeking help at 16 and 17 is going to age out of the system before they even get in front of a clinician? It is an embarrassment.

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I want more to be done. If you won’t adopt all of the recommendations in this select committee’s report, fine. But do something. Make sure that there are no more stories like Noah’s. Make sure that we don’t, as MPPs, have to say, “I have called everyone that I know in my community and there is no one who can help you at this time.” Let’s stop those stories and let’s move together to make sure that those aren’t what we remember, that that’s not our legacy.

Thank you for bringing this bill.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Further debate?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: In my community, every year we do a volunteer banquet and we honour those volunteers who have been outstanding in various fields. This last year, one of those volunteers was a young man named Mark Baratta.

Mark is an addict; he doesn’t hide the fact. He has had his challenges—always trying to get into recovery. We honoured him because of what he did. What he did, and what he does, is to carry around a naloxone kit and help keep his fellow addicts from dying.

On the night that we had our banquet, Mark was late. He was late because he saved somebody’s life on the way to the banquet, using his kit. That is the story of the tragedy of opioid addiction in my riding. It’s every day; it’s on the way to somewhere else; it’s every person. That’s how it’s affecting us. Mark is one example of many.

I heard the Minister of Health talk about the committee. I know many of the folks on that committee. Many of them are from my riding. Here’s the problem, Madam Speaker—and the problem is being addressed by this private member’s bill. It’s being addressed by our member from Nickel Belt, who I have to say has been this tireless champion of all things health-related since she has been here. So thank you.

Applause.


Ms. Cheri DiNovo: Absolutely.

The problem is, we had a select committee. It sat seven years ago. It travelled around the province. It made these recommendations—23, to be exact. I was here when they did it. All parties agreed. It cost a lot of taxpayers’ dollars to get that report on to the table.

No more committees need to sit. No more work needs to be done. What needs to be done is to put those recommendations into action.

We don’t need more consultation. We know what needs to happen, and most of what needs to happen is more money. That’s what needs to happen. It’s more money and political will—two of those key factors that go into everything we do around here. More money and political will.

In a sense, we’re trying to help you, Minister of Health. We’re fighting for you over here. We’re saying that we want you to have more money in your budget. We want you to be able to put into place what has already been decided, what has already been advocated for, what has already been proposed. Why should we have to reinvent the wheel?

Years ago, families came called Tragically NOHIP—that was the name of their organization—families who had children who couldn’t get help. There is no help for children with addiction issues. Sorry; there’s none. I’m just telling you the truth. There is no help for children with addiction issues. You have to mortgage your house and you have to send them out of province to someplace else, to residential care. That is the reality. There is no help for children with addiction issues in this province. You have to mortgage your house and send them out of province. Sorry; that’s the reality, because they want residential care and are not going to get it here. They’re going to die on a waiting list here. So they had to come here and they had to lobby here. That was years ago—years ago. Madam Speaker, come on. Really?

It’s time. Just put the recommendations into action. Let’s make sure that our select committees actually do their job and are recognized. Minister of Health, I appeal to you—not just to you. I know that your decisions are made somewhere else sometimes, too. You need the money. You need the resources. You need the political backbone. Do it.


The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): I return to the member from Nickel Belt to wrap up.

Mme France Gélinas: It was very heartwarming for me to hear support from all sides of the House for mental health and addiction. As I said in my opening, we don’t talk about mental health and addiction very often in this House. Today, a lot of the ideas that were talked about were kind of similar.

The bill is very simple: It gives mental health and addiction a home. It makes a ministry responsible and accountable, so that we get more resources, so that they get the financing that they need, so that we put the focus on mental health and addiction and nothing else, through a Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction. It’s quite simple.

We have seen all of the efforts that have been done; we have seen all of the investments that have been done. But the fact remains that we haven’t got a mental health and addiction system. People depend on a system that fails them, and catastrophic outcomes come out of it.

I think we are ready for this bold step. I think Ontario is ready to lead a new way in how we make mental health and addiction a priority, by coming forward with a ministry dedicated to prioritizing mental health and addiction at all times, so that the stories that we’ve heard of the failings never happen again, and so that the story that the young man, Noah Irvine, shared with us this week never happens again.

Le projet de loi est très simple. On veut un ministère de la Santé mentale et des dépendances qui a une seule priorité : c’est de s’assurer que les services de santé mentale et des dépendances ont les ressources pour bien faire leur travail.

Thank you, everyone.

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