Last week, we shared a questionnaire from the federal government asking for feedback regarding the 2021 budget. This week, we are sharing a request from the provincial government asking for responses as to how they plan their 2021 budget. They are particularly interested in your views on how we recover from COVID-19.

We are once again, strongly encouraging you to make your voices heard.
Questions in this survey deal with the impacts of COVID-19 and how the Ontario government can best support people and community health, small businesses, and the economy.

When answering these questions, we urge you to keep our advocacy issues top of mind, namely:

  • the removal of tax on psychotherapy services when they are delivered by any regulated professional with the competencies and scope of practice to do so
  • Removing HST on mental health services that are a barrier not only for clients seeking care but also for psychotherapists seeking employment.
  • Support for the 1 in 4 Canadians who will suffer from a mental illness or addictions problem
  • Addressing mental illness, the leading cause of disability in Canada, which creates an economic burden of $51 billion annually.

We have also included the open-ended questions below with draft suggested responses for you to use for inspiration. Please do make these responses your own, using your own expertise and concerns.

The survey closes on February 12, 2021. Please do not delay.

We thank you for your participation in the matter.

2. The 2020 Budget provided resources to protect frontline health care across the province. What more could the government do to protect people’s health, including our loved ones in long-term care? Write up to 500 words.

First thing is to find a way to seamlessly include private sector regulated healthcare providers in the overall health system. Those with coverage or in need of mental health supports could readily be treated without being subjected to long waitlists in this way and at the same time relieving the extra stress on our funded and over-worked medical system. Increase access to care and integrated Mental Health into Health Care delivery.

3. COVID-19 has affected people in Ontario in different ways – and some communities more than others. What support should the government provide in your community as people continue dealing with the second wave of COVID-19? Write up to 500 words.

Clearer direction and communication. The lack of transparency with the Federal government has had a negative impact and while it is tough enough for people to keep distanced and follow the rules, it would be helpful to send clear messaging that vaccines are important to get as soon as they are readily available. In addition, let people know when different groups might be able to access them. Remind them too that mandatory masking is essential even once vaccinated as most people do not know this.

It might also be useful to remove the caveats about masking and say simply that when you leave your residence you wear a mask. In this way you avoid those situations where some people are masked and others are not, you reduce possible instances where the virus can be inadvertently communicated from one to another.

7. Do you have any other ideas for how the government can support workers and families during the COVID-19 pandemic? Write up to 500 words.

Please do something to support independent (sole owner-operated) regulated mental health practitioners by including them in some of the grant and loan programs. This group is missed almost all of the time.

Remove the HST from all regulated mental health service providers. This last action alone would enable those covered by extended benefits as well as those having to pay out of pocket for mental health services at least one more therapy session for every eight they attend. In the midst of a mental health crisis that existed before the pandemic and has since been exacerbated, this would be a huge support for those otherwise waiting on funded care.

Appeal to insurers to include all regulated healthcare professionals in their baseline extended coverage for all employees as this would be beneficial to both the employees and the providers while offloading big numbers of users from the funded system who could, in fact, be safely treated in their communities.

It would also be helpful to consider similar approaches for other independent regulated healthcare professionals.

Safely get children back to school. Provide additional financial assistance for utilities for low and mid-income earners who have to work from home for now as well as for those who lost their employment due to COVID-19. Recognize the stress involved in following lockdown procedures for those who are working (with or without children at home) and provide greater financial and mental health supports to those in need.

ECHO is a solid program but it is not enough. Find a way to make it easier for workers and families to access mental health supports in their own communities

8. The government released an action plan to make government services simpler, easier to use, more convenient and accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. What further actions should we take to make government services more digitally accessible, responsive and easier to use? Write up to 500 words

The government may have released a plan but most people do not know about it. Be clear and available about what is being offered. People are confused and get mixed messaging from different levels of government so they stop listening. Other than washing hands, staying home and keeping physically distant (which people are not always listening to) everyone is tired of listening and hearing conflicting stories. Increasingly we see that even healthcare providers are becoming sceptical about the vaccine and the on again off again lockdowns.

9. The government is committed to fiscal transparency and responsibility. Recognizing the continued uncertainty of the global pandemic, how soon do you think the government should return to a balanced budget?

As soon as possible AFTER the pandemic has been controlled and people are supported in getting back to work.
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