What will we do? World Mental Health and World Homelessness Day

I’ve been meaning to write the follow-up to my posts on mental health and the issues that surround it for some time now. But what with our Ontario Provincial Election and the demands of work, school, family and my to many projects the time just seemed to slip by. But today is World Mental Health Day and it’s World Homelessness Day and here in Canada its Thanks Giving so it’s apropos that I offer my solutions to what is often a black hole of issues.

First though a couple of things you need to realise about homelessness here in London Ontario and by extension the province, the country and the world. There are often 2000 people per night that sleep on the streets or in the limited shelters in our forested city. That’s a lot of folks with no family to celebrate this holiday with nor enjoy that holiday staple the turkey dinner and they live on the street. If this makes you feel bad good. I think we all have a collective shame to bear that we allow this to happen in community in which we live

The Cost of Poverty according to the Ontario Association of Food Banks is The report finds that the economic cost of poverty in Ontario comes to $32 to $38 billion per year “ and with child poverty “If child poverty were eliminated, the extra income tax revenues nationally would be between $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion, while for Ontario, the additional (federal and provincial) taxes would amount to $1.3 billion to $1.6 billion.  The total economic cost (private and social) of child poverty Ontario is $4.6 to 5.9 billion annually.”  The London Free Press Reported recently about the London Food Bank  As the food bank marks its 25th anniversary this month, use has gone up, not down. It has had an almost 10-fold increase in client families, to more than 3,200 a month. And still Londoners go hungry, are homeless and are unemployed.”

The Cost of Mental health is .  “$51 billion is the estimated cost of mental illness to the Canadian economy in terms of health care and lost productivity” and in Ontario “$34 billion is the cost of mental illness and addictions to the Ontario economy” according to the Centre for Addictions, and Mental Health(CAMH)

What you need to realize friends is that Mental Health, Poverty , and Homelessness are all deeply interrelated. But what can we do as ordinary citizens to change what seems to be an insurmountable problem? We can choose to act with a political and community minded will to ensure our governments address these as some of our highest priorities.

I can here you thinking “ Sure you keep talking about these issues but what are you offering as a solution?” Well I’m glad you asked. I suggest first that as a province and a country we need to stop talking about tax cuts and start talk about paying for the community, Province, and Country in which we want to live. This means that if I have to pay an extra $400/year in taxes to solve these issues then I’m willing to do that as the cost to making where I live a better place for everyone.

I also believe that we need to integrate our approach across disciplines. There can be no separation of church and state between health care, education, community and social services, police and justice, and the public. So on the issue of homelessness, poverty, and mental health there is a unified approach to taking action across the board that is driven by research and not politics.

A fairly straight forward thing that could happen immediately to help almost 53,000 people in London is to increase Ontario Works and ODSP (disability) payments to 10% above the low-income cut off line. At the same time we need to create a transition from OW to work. This means rather than claw back benefits when a family earns some money we allow them to keep it and once they have regular full-time employment then we allow them to keep their benefits for 6 months. This would ease the transition and ensure economic stability for that family.  With the current system this is impossible so families and individuals feel they cannot leave Ontario Works. I have seen this hundreds and hundreds of times in the past 4 years.  Our system actively discourages people from moving forward because it does not allow them to build an economic cushion. You are either on OW or your off.

This chart gives you an idea of the gap between what OW and ODSP pay and what the Low Income Cut Off mark is . This comes from Children’s Mental Health Ontario:

You can see that we have a long way to go but if we do decide to cover this distance and take on something that is important for the economic, health, and generational benefit of our community then we will be pulling down the huge economic and human cost of these underfunded and often ignored area.

In the end we can either deal with these issues honestly and with maturity or keep playing the tax cut shell game we have been for to many years. We as corporations, businesses, public institutions, governments, and most importantly citizens must decide how our communities will prioritize our efforts. I propose the priority is Poverty, Homelessness, and Mental Health, so that we have a community for all not just some.

Why I’m Endorsing the Liberals and Deb Matthews, Chris Bentley, and Khalil Ramal

Friends sometimes you have to make a choice and I’ve made one in my riding for the provincial election on Oct.6th I am endorsing Deb Matthews for London North Centre here in London. The reasons are critical. It’s because Deb has supported child and youth mental health, the Ontario Liberal Party”reaffirmed mental health and addictions as a priority by announcing an annual investment for children’s mental health that will grow to $93 million in 2013/14. We are investing $257 million over the next three years for children’s mental health, in addition to our annual investments of $400 million in this area. We are providing 50 per cent more in financial support for children’s mental health services than in 2003. ”

Deb has also signed the Parents for Childrens Mental Health pledge for child and youth mental health. This pledge states:

If  I am elected I will support comprehensive reform of children and youth mental health services based on the following principles:

  • Establishing a single, high standard of child and youth mental health services, comparable to the physical  services provided by the health care system and universally accessible to all families in Ontario
  • Integration of child and youth mental health services across Ministries and service agencies
  • Commitment to family centred mental health services, including increased parent and youth involvement in treatment design and delivery, increased transparency of services and treatment decisions, and greater accountability of service providers to the young people and families they serve

Practical Steps

If elected, I will support legislation and policy initiatives committed to the following objectives:

  • Encouraging and promoting initiatives to integrate service delivery at the community level
  • Expansion of existing initiatives including  community-based services, youth engagement programming, family and peer support (such as the “Made in Ontario” Model of Family Support),  and development of navigation services
  • Appointment of  parents, guardians and those with ‘lived experience’ of children and youth mental illness to regional and provincial decision-making bodies
  • Continued funding increases to improve standards and increase access to child and youth mental health services
Chris Bentley and Khalil Ramal also signed this important pledge.
I have not seen this support from the Progressive Conservatives and during their last time in power Tim Hudak, the PC leader,  was at the cabinet table when social services and support for the most disadvantaged were slashed.
I cannot stand by when this affects my daughter and the 1 in 5 children and youth in Ontario. There is too much at stake, to many young lives on the line. too much pain that could be avoided by families, and too much to go wrong for me to take a chance else where. The liberals of London stood up and made a commitment toward the children and the youth of this province and have made a move to address the problem and made a pledge for the future.
There is a great deal to fix in this system not the least of which are the issues I have added in my last 2 posts. So I ask you to join me in electing Deb, Chris, and Khalil to a majority Liberal  government on October 6th.