Universal Mental Health Coverage
Guaranteeing Universal Mental Health Coverage for all Ontarians
Yasir Naqvi, candidate for Ontario Liberal Party Leader, will introduce a new Ontario Mental Wellness Act to enshrine in law guaranteed universal access to mental health and addictions services and restore the promise of Ontario.
7 out of 10 Ontarians say their mental health has gotten worse since 2018. 📉— Yasir Naqvi 🇨🇦 (@Yasir_Naqvi) July 25, 2023
We can and must do better. Our neighbours deserve reliable and accessible mental health care services. 🧠🩺
My 3-step plan will do just that. pic.twitter.com/3aBwvJaqWF
Released - July 24, 2023
Ontarians know mental health is just as important as physical health. Strong mental healthcare is fundamental to our social and economic well-being. Under the Doug Ford government these vital services remain out of reach for too many people. His chronic underfunding and a lack of vision has made a bad problem worse.
As Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, Yasir Naqvi will not accept this failing status quo – Ontarians deserve better.
A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario Liberal government will introduce the Ontario Mental Wellness Act to enshrine in law the basic right of, and guaranteed access to, high quality mental health and addictions supports.
Yasir promises a comprehensive strategy to ensure everyone in our province can access the essential mental health and addictions services they need when they need them. His vision brings together disconnected elements of a fractured system to ensure access across the province.
“In Ontario we’ve made great strides in reducing stigma and bringing mental health and addictions challenges out from the shadows. But there’s so much more we should be doing. Doug Ford talks a good game, but he has failed time and time again to provide the necessary funding to ensure access. It’s not complicated, let’s guarantee access to mental healthcare and addictions supports, break down barriers and provide the funding required to truly tackle this problem. A healthier Ontario is good for our communities and our economy; it's time to enshrine access to mental healthcare in Ontario law.”
~ Yasir Naqvi
Yasir’s plan will:
Create a new OHIP-like insurance plan that provides universal coverage of services, such as counseling and psychotherapy, to Ontarians in need. This plan would include both a basic component of support that every Ontarian could access at no cost, without assessment or referral, as well as more intensive support based on need. The plan will build on the existing mental health and addictions supports in Ontario - both public and private - so Ontarians already accessing care will not have to change providers or plans.
Promote strong and healthy workplaces for all Ontarians by updating Ontario’s occupational health and safety laws to obligate employers to promote safe and mentally resilient workplaces.
Improve capacity and reduce wait times by increasing funding, setting clear targets and enforcing strict accountability measures. Achievement of these targets will be funded by a required minimum investment in mental health services equivalent to 10 per cent of provincial health funding.
To make this vision real, Ontario needs more front-line care providers - more social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists - and Ontarians need the certainty that they will be able to get care in a time of need.
Yasir’s plan to put Ontario’s tens of thousands of internationally trained health professionals to work, will help to clear backlogs and rapidly increase the number of mental health practitioners available throughout the province.
Guaranteed Mental Healthcare Access for All Ontarians
As every Ontarian knows, mental health is fundamental to our social and economic well-being.
And yet, in 2023, much of our healthcare system and our workplaces still do not adequately reflect this fact. Although we have made great strides as a society in reducing the stigma associated with speaking openly about the need for help, too many Ontarians go without support because they can’t find it, or they can’t afford it.
Since 2018, the percentage of Ontarians assessing their mental health as fair or poor has increased nearly 70 per cent. (Note 1) While the pandemic magnified many of these challenges, Doug Ford has failed to prioritize the necessary investments and structural changes needed to create a strong and resilient society. Of the nearly 1 in 5 who report needing to access a mental health service in Ontario, more than 45 per cent will go on to say their needs were either not met at all or only partially by our health care system. (Note 2)
This isn’t simply a health care issue, it is also a basic affordability issue. A recent survey from the Canadian Psychological Association found nearly 80 per cent of respondents cited cost or the lack of health coverage under a provincial or workplace plan as a significant barrier to access. (Note 3) Though mental health and addictions constitute approximately 10 per cent of the disease burden in Ontario, mental health and addictions services constitute only 7 per cent of provincial healthcare investment. (Note 4) This while Doug Ford’s government sits on billions of unspent dollars that can be better used to help people and build up the individual potential of every Ontarian.
Failing to properly address the mental health and addictions needs of Ontairans makes us all poorer and weaker - it means lower productivity, and a society in which we are not all able to be ourselves.
A Yasir Naqvi-led Ontario Liberal government will challenge the status quo and make access to mental health and addictions services a key priority for a stronger economy and a better future for us all.
At the core of this strategy will be the creation of a new piece of foundational legislation, the Ontario Mental Wellness Act, which will provide a basic set of rights and guarantees that every Ontarian can count on for good, high quality mental health and addictions supports. The Ontario Mental Wellness Act will:
1) Ensure that every Ontarian can access affordable, universal mental health and addictions services when they need them.
We will establish a new OHIP-like insurance plan which provides universal coverage of services, such as counseling and psychotherapy, to Ontarians in need. This would include both a basic component of support that every Ontarian could access at no cost, without assessment or referral, as well as more intensive support based on need. The plan will cover both Ontarians who do not have coverage already, as well as provide additional supplemental coverage and funding to insure those whose coverage is insufficient. For Ontarians who already have workplace coverage with a private insurance plan, they will be able to keep it. For Ontarians who want to continue accessing services beyond what is medically necessary under the public plan, they would also be able to do so according to the policy coverage they have now.
As part of this plan, Ontarians themselves will be able to choose how and when is the best way to access care. Supporting a mix of services through virtual and in-person therapy, Ontarians will be able to count on a diverse and accessible spectrum of supports, regardless of where they live, and in whatever may be the easiest and fastest way to access care.
This will save Ontarians and employers money, improve our collective well being and productivity, and ensure we all can rely on supports, without worrying about cost and coverage.
The design and implementation of this program will be developed jointly with mental health and addictions experts, health practitioners, and Ontario employers to ensure an effective and seamless implementation.
2) Promote strong and healthy workplaces for all Ontarians.
We will update Ontario’s occupational health and safety laws to make the promotion of a safe and mentally resilient workplace an obligation that employers must follow. This would include expanding the mandate of joint health and safety representatives and committees (where applicable) to include issues of mental health and stress, and to require employers to have in place proactive plans to promote wellness and wellbeing throughout the workplace, such as flexible work arrangements. To improve transparency and accountability, we will leverage the power of securities law so that publicly traded Ontario companies are required to report on the efforts they are taking to promote mental wellness.
3) Improve capacity and reduce wait times so that mental health and addictions supports are available when you need them.
To make this vision real Ontario needs more front line care providers - more social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists - and Ontaians need the certainty that they will be able to get care in a time of need.
Yasir’s plan to put the tens of thousands of internationally trained health professionals already in Ontario to work, will help to clear backlogs and rapidly increase the number of mental health practitioners available throughout the province. But we also need to go further:
- We will set system-wide wait times and strict accountability measures to ensure that Ontarians who need access to more intensive community and institution-based care will be able to get it.
- And we will enshrine in law the creation of a regular provincial mental health and addictions strategy, which would require the province to allocate a minimum of 10 per cent of provincial health funding toward mental health services. If mental health is to truly take its place in modern day health care, we need to invest at necessary levels.
1. Statistics Canada table 13-10-0096-01. Health characteristics, annual estimates. (Accessed July 7, 2023.)
2. In 2018, 17 per cent of Ontarians reported a need for mental health services. Of this, 7.8 per cent had their need either partially or not met at all. Statistics Canada table 13-10-0619-01. Mental health characteristics, perceived need for mental health care. (Accessed: July 7, 2023.)
3. Canadian Psychological Association (2021). “Strong Majority Want Improved Access to Psychologists”. January 5, 2021.
4. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. “According equitable funding for mental health”.