Horwath: Health care with your OHIP card, not your credit card

We have come so far in de-stigmatizing mental health care. Most people agree: mental health care is health care.

So why is it so expensive? And why is it so hard to get?

During the election campaign, I met a young man who told me that he had been bullied at school and suffered from depression. But he was unable to get any type of regular mental health support, even after attempting suicide. His story is heartbreaking. He still doesn’t get the help he needs. He feels alone, but he is not.

From disturbing personality changes in children after two years of pandemic isolation to depression and anxiety exacerbated by grief, fear and financial stress from the pandemic, Ontario is facing a wave of mental health issues . And too many families are left without help or racking up credit card bills to pay.

The cost of everything is rising, and paychecks are not. How is someone supposed to pay hundreds or thousands of extra dollars for therapy? Or dentist bills and braces, for that matter?

There is something we can do about it. If elected on June 2, Ontario will have Canada’s first universal mental health care plan.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath leaves the campaign bus after her nomination meeting and campaign launch in Hamtilon, Ont., Saturday, April 30, 2022. (Nick Iwanyshyn/The Canadian Press )

We will train thousands more health professionals to provide therapy and make it easy for you to book an appointment and go, without the need for money.

Mental health concerns us all.

It is our family, our friends and our colleagues.

When we ignore mental health or cut services, we see the results in our emergency rooms and our hospitals, our justice system and our social service system.

We have to fix it. We can fix it. And for that, we must stop the cuts.

Under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, with Steven Del Duca at the Cabinet table, we were all disappointed. His party froze hospital budgets and laid off 1,600 nurses. They had a roadmap to improve mental health services and they let it go. They have tried to keep wages low by imposing salary caps on teachers and education workers and freezing the minimum wage for years.

Then Doug Ford made it even worse. He cut $2.1 billion in planned funding for mental health during his tenure. He cut things off from OHIP, so you might have to whip out your wallet and rack up an $80 charge the next time you get a blood test. He has frozen wages at 1% while inflation hovers around 7%, scaring away many healthcare professionals and making it all the more difficult to pay what we need.

Now our health care system is at breaking point — and Doug Ford’s budget includes $2.7 billion more in cuts.

We can ease the tension. We can provide more health care with your OHIP card, not your credit card.

Not only mental health care, but also dental care. About 50% of Ontarians have little or no dental insurance. For many, this means they don’t go to the dentist unless they are in pain. And too often, people are so worried about the cost that they ignore a toothache until they end up in the emergency room.

Together, let’s fix it.

On June 2, we can come together to stop the cuts.

We can choose a government that is there for ordinary workers, instead of just the people at the top.

We can have a government that believes in investing to fix health care and provide universal coverage for mental health care and dental care. It’s the right thing to do, and together we can do it.

Andrea Horwath is the leader of the Ontario NDP.

QP Briefing and iPolitics asked the leaders of each of Ontario’s four major parties to write an op-ed to speak directly to voters ahead of Election Day.

PC chief Doug Ford wrote about doing so.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wrote about paying for mental health care with your OHIP card.

The Greens asked their candidate from Parry Sound—Muskoka to write one instead.

And Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca failed to submit an op-ed by the deadline.

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