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A breakdown of mental health, health commitments in recent Ontario budget

July 17, 2014

budget_homeOne of the first measures of the new Liberal Government in Ontario was to re-release its 2014-2015 budget, Building Opportunity, Securing Our Future. CMHA Ontario has provided the following budget breakdown that may be of use for mental health and addictions organizations.

Introduction

The budget gives attention and focus to jobs, economy, transportation and infrastructure. It also outlines commitments to health care and mental health and addictions. Specifically, the government continues its commitment to fund Open Minds Healthy Minds: Ontario’s 10-year Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy to deliver mental health and addictions services to Ontarians in an integrated, coordinated and effective way. Other issues related to health, mental health and addictions featured in the budget include investments in affordable housing and homelessness prevention, indexing of minimum wage, and income security, employment and training opportunities for people with disabilities. Details of the 2014 Budget is available online on the Ministry of Finance website.

Investments in Community Mental Health and Addictions

The 2014 budget builds on the investments made through Ontario’s 10-year Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy announced in 2011, the first three years of which focused on children and youth. The budget announces the building and expanding on the previously announced Strategy with a focus on:

  • Improved transition between youth and adult services
  • People with addictions
  • Adults

The Strategy will also focus on the areas of:

  • Investing in evidence-based prevention initiatives in workplaces, schools and communities
  • Early identification and intervention
  • Expanded housing and employment supports
  • Expand integrated health and social service coordination model for people coping with mental illnesses and addictions
  • Provide funding based on need and quality by developing a new funding model that links population need, quality improvement and sector integration to service delivery

Funding commitments are made in the budget for community mental health and addictions:

  • More than $65 million in 2014-2015
  • Growing to $83 million in 2016-2017

[Reference: p.30-31 Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

Broader Health Sector

Ontario continues its commitment to investing in health services at home and in the community including:

  • Increasing investments by more than $750 million by 2016–17, including more than $270 million in 2014–15
  • Investments are intended to improve the health system’s capacity and ability to care for individuals after hospital discharge, and where possible, avoid costly hospitalization or long waits in the emergency room, and intended to help free up hospital and long-term care beds for those who need them
  • Providing Personal Support Workers (PSWs) in the publicly funded home and community care sector a $1.50 per hour wage increase in 2014–15, an additional $1.50 per hour increase in 2015–16, and a further $1.00 per hour increase in 2016–17; this increase would bring up the base wage to $16.50 per hour by 2017
  • As part of the government’s community investment, Ontario will commit to supporting demonstration projects that empower people — or their designates — to choose the care that best suits their needs, instead of the system choosing it for them. This responds to a report entitled Living Longer, Living Well by Dr. Samir Sinha, Director of Geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital and the University Health Network Hospitals, and is an important next step in Ontario’s Seniors Strategy.

[Reference: p.27-28 Ontario Budget Papers]

Long-Term Care

Ontario continues to modernize long-term care (LTC) homes and is proposing further investment in the LTC sector to enhance the current Long-Term Care Home Renewal Strategy by:

  • Providing funding to encourage LTC home operators to accelerate the redevelopment of about 30,000 long-term care home beds
  • Introducing amendments to the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007, which, if passed, would extend the maximum term of LTC home licences from 25 to 30 years
  • In addition, the government is proposing an amendment to the Assessment Act, which, if passed, would provide consistent and equitable property tax treatment by exempting all charitable and non-profit LTC homes from property taxation, allowing homes to devote more of their resources to front-line care services.

[Reference: p.29, Ontario Budget Papers]

Community Health Links

  • To improve access to care, Ontario is expanding Community Health Links, which bring together health care providers to better and more quickly coordinate care for high-needs patients such as seniors and people with complex conditions
  • Health Links are a new, made-in-Ontario innovation that will help patients transition within the health system, ensuring patients receive more responsive care that addresses their specific needs with the support of a team of providers
  • To date, 54 Health Links have been created, with plans to create more than 90 in total

Other steps Ontario is taking to improve access to health care include:

  • Making progress towards providing a family doctor for every senior who wants one; As of February 2014, 91% of high-needs seniors who registered with Health Care Connect have been referred to a family health care provider
  • Expanding the scope of practice for a number of health care providers, such as allowing pharmacists to give flu shots and authorizing registered nurses and registered practical nurses to dispense drugs in certain circumstances

[Reference: p.30 Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

Investments in Affordable Housing

  • Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) was established on January 1, 2013 which combined funding from separate homelessness-related programs into a single program delivered locally to allow municipalities flexibility to address local housing priorities
  • CHPI is part of the government’s Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy (a component of the broader Poverty Reduction Strategy)
  • Consistent with the success of the housing-first approaches in Ontario and elsewhere, the government is enhancing annual funding for the CHPI by $42 million starting in 2014-2015, to a total of $294 million

[Reference: p.119-120, Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

Enhancements for Income Security and Employment Supports

  • Fair Minimum Wage legislation will index minimum wage to Ontario Consumer Price Index (CPI) beginning in October 2015
  • Integrating and modernizing the employment and training system is intended to better serve people with disabilities, youth at risk, new Canadians, and Aboriginal people
  • Increased focus on addressing barriers faced by people with physical, mental, sensory or learning disabilities in securing employment
  • For greater income security of Ontario’s seniors, the government intends to create the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan which will enhance the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), especially for middle-income earners to given them greater financial security in retirement; ORRP will expand pension coverage initially to more than three million working Ontarians who currently rely on the CPP, Old Age Security and their own savings for retirement income

[Reference: p.295-304 Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

Poverty Strategy

  • Government is investing $50 million over five years to create a new poverty reduction fund targeted at supporting local solutions to poverty

[Reference: p.121 Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)

Government will continue to collaborate with business and community employers to foster partnerships and to develop more inclusive workplaces:

  • Accessibility Directorate of Ontario will continue to work with businesses by providing tools and assistance they need to meet AODA standards
  • Continued support for the Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities (announced in 2013 Budget)
  • Valuing Ability Campaign: outreach to increase awareness of AODAand its impact on small- and medium-sized enterprises

[Reference: p.124-125 Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

Income Security for People with Disabilities

  • Raising social assistance rates in 2014 by one per cent (1%) for adult Ontario Works (OW) recipients and people with disabilities receiving Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) benefits
  • Comfort allowance for low-income residents of long-term care homes will increase by one per cent (1%)
  • Social assistance rate increases take effect in September 2014 (ODSP) and October 2014 (OW) but municipalities will not be required to cost-share until January 2015
  • Work-Related Benefit (WRB) in ODSP will be consolidated into the new employment benefit, which will be available to ODSP recipients with disabilities
  • Tax credits to help low to moderate income families and individuals with energy costs

[Reference: p.122 Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

Justice

  • Expanding access to Legal Aid by raising the income eligibility threshold which will allow an estimated 1 million additional low-income Ontarians to access legal aid services

[Reference: p.133 Ontario 2014 Budget Papers]

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