The Ontario government is in the midst of making significant changes to the province’s health care system in an effort to create a more integrated system that provides higher quality of care to Ontarians through improved access and accountability.
Ontario’s Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care was released in 2015 and is the current blue print that is being used to shape the province’s health system transformation with an emphasis on ensuring a patient-centered approach to health care delivery throughout the province. There are four priorities of focus for this action plan. The government is committed to improving access, connecting services for more integrated and coordinated care, informing patients and people how to make the right decisions about their health and to protect our universal public health care system by improving value and quality of care to sustain the system.
A major goal of this government’s transformation agenda for health has been to make the health system more accountable for health outcomes. The Excellent Care for All Act (2010) established requirements for health care organizations, starting first with hospitals then into the community sector, to monitor the quality of care provided to their clients. Health Quality Ontario was also formed as an arm’s length government agency responsible for monitoring and reporting on health care system performance, creating evidence based standards of care, and supporting quality improvement efforts within health care service organizations across the province.
Furthermore, to enhance accountability and create a more integrated system, in 2005 the provincial government began restricting the provincial health care system into 14 regions called Local Health Integration Networks or LHINs, which are responsible for the day-to-day management of the health system, the funding and monitoring of the health system in their geographic area. By bringing planning and funding down to a more local level, the goal is to make the health system more accessible, easier to navigate, and more responsive to the needs of the people who live in the LHIN areas.
Public health, family physicians and Family Health Teams, ambulance services, laboratories, and provincial networks and programs (such as Tele-Health and Cancer Care Ontario) are currently not under the direction of the LHINs. In June 2016, Ontario introduced new legislation, The Patients First Act, that will give the LHINs an expanded role in primary health care and home and community care, to continue to enhance the integration of services throughout the province.
Over the past several years, Ontario has also taken steps to address pressing issues facing our health care system such as reviewing the current state of home and community care and modernizing Ontario’s publicly funded immunization program.
Health transformation and mental health
Through system transformation has come increased awareness and investment in mental health and addictions services throughout Ontario. Through the previously discussed health system initiatives and strategies, mental health and addictions services and program gaps are becoming more and more prevalent as an unmet health need for Ontarians.
Because of this growing and recognized need to improve mental health and addictions within Ontario, the province has developed a strategy specifically to address the growing gaps and needs of the mental health and addictions services across the province. Open Minds, Health Minds: Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy was launched in 2011 as a 10-year comprehensive approach to transforming the mental health and addictions system. The four guiding goals of the Strategy are as follows:
- Improve mental health and well-being for all Ontarians;
- Create healthy, resilient, inclusive communities;
- Identify mental health and addictions problems early and intervene;
- Provide timely, high quality, integrated, person-directed health and other human services.
The first three years of the Strategy focused on children and youth in three key areas: fast access to high-quality services, early identification and intervention and bridging service gaps for remote communities and children and youth with complex needs. Phase one has provided more than 50,000 additional children and youth with access to mental health and addiction services. The current and second phase of the Strategy will focus on promoting mental health and well-being in schools and workplaces, improving early identification and intervention, increasing supportive housing, diverting individuals with mental health needs away from the justice system, and enhancing integration of mental health and addictions services across sectors and other Ministries.
CMHA Ontario is continuously monitoring changes in the health care system and their impact on people with mental health and addictions issues. As the health care system changes, we are committed to working to ensure that changes are in the best interest of the mental health of Ontarians.