Policy and Advocacy Current Issues

Current Issues

SSO is currently working on the following public policy and system advocacy issues:
 
Mental Health Policy, Legislation and Practice
Criminalization of Mental Illnesses and Justice and Mental Health Issues
Disclosure of Non-Conviction Information on Police Records Checks
Persons with Mental Illnesses and the Immigration System
ODSP Advocacy and Poverty Reduction
Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy
Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance
Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) Provision (Bill C-14)

Federal Election 2015

Mental Health Policy, Legislation and Practice

As a response to the recommendations put forth by the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions and in order to better understand how Ontario’s mental health legislation affects access to treatment and human rights, the SSO undertook a review of mental health law in this province.

This review culminated into an Exploratory Report - 
It Doesn’t Work: Unpacking Mental Health Policy and Legislation - released in April 2013. SSO is currently working to facilitate a broader, more in-depth approach to the complexity of mental health law reform to truly address these issues.

To read other submissions, papers and briefs on this topic, click here


Criminalization of Mental Illnesses and Justice and Mental Health Issues
 
SSO has prioritized issues regarding criminalization of mental illnesses. Evidence shows that people with mental illnesses are coming in contact with the law at increasing and disproportionate rates. At the same time, for those who spend time in correctional facilities, the consequences of this criminalization are even more pronounced as criminal history often impedes their access to treatment, employment and housing. SSO currently sits on the Human Justice and Coordinating Committees, Toronto Justice Service Collaborative and Toronto Police Services Board’s Mental Health Subcommittee.  



Disclosure of Non-Conviction Information on Police Records Checks
 
SSO is the co-chair of the 
Police Records Check Coalition (PRCC),  a group of organizations and individuals who have been working together to end the discriminatory and stigmatizing practice of requesting, releasing and making decisions based on non-conviction information, particularly mental health and addictions-related information, on police records. The release of non-conviction information can undermine volunteer, educational and employment opportunities and even cross-border travel for individuals with mental health issues.

By constructively engaging directly with police, civilian boards, the government, public complaint systems, and individuals, the PRCC aims to achieve a legislative amendment prohibiting the request and disclosure of non-conviction information; develop best-practice guidelines; and educate individuals, families, stakeholders, agencies, and police services on this topic.  



 
Persons with Mental Illnesses and the Immigration System
 
Immigration system does not adequately understand nor address the needs of individuals and families affected by mental illnesses. This often has negative effect on mental health and well-being of newcomer communities, refugees, immigrants, and other non-citizen groups and poses significant barriers to navigating the immigration system and accessing mental health services and supports.
 
SSO has done research, advocacy, and training on this topic and we continue our work to support newcomers and non-citizens with mental health issues who are going through immigration and/or deportation proceedings and to increase their access to healthcare services and social supports.




ODSP Advocacy and Poverty Reduction
 
SSO actively advocates for poverty reduction strategies to promote economic, social and mental well-being of individuals and families affected by mental health issues. We do this by advocating for increases and better access to income support programs (e.g. ODSP) and saving vehicles (e.g. RDSP); employment and educational opportunities; and social inclusion.
 
SSO is pleased to be part of the ODSP Action Coalition, a grassroots coalition of ODSP recipients and agencies serving ODSP recipients. Through our work with the Coalition, SSO advocates for changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) that will help improve the lives of people with mental illnesses.



Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy
 
Provincial Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, 
Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario's Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, was officially launched on June 22, 2011.  This strategy was initiated by past Minister of Health, David Caplan, and builds on the recommendations of the Minister’s Advisory Group which were proposed in December 2010 in their Respect, Resilience, Recovery paper.

This was a parallel process with the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions, who released their report, 
Navigating the Journey to Wellness, in August 2010. 

SSO was actively involved in both of these processes and we continue to work with the provincial government and our community partners and stakeholders to improve Ontario’s mental health and addictions system, services and supports. 


Ontario Mental Health & Addictions Alliance
 
In 2011, SSO facilitated the mental health and addictions sector forming the Ontario Mental Health & Addictions Alliance, a coalition of provincial mental health and addictions organizations that came together to make these issues an election priority. Since then, the Alliance and its member organizations have been very active in promoting positive system change and will continue to work to ensure that mental health and addictions become a priority for Ontario’s government.
 
The Alliance includes:                  

Addictions and Mental Health Ontario
Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Children’s Mental Health Ontario
Mood Disorders Association of Ontario
Ontario Association of Patient Councils
Ontario Hospital Association
Ontario Peer Development Initiative
Schizophrenia Society of Ontario


Not Criminally Responsible (NCR) Provision – Bill C-14 (previously Bill-C54)
 
In 2012, the Government of Canada introduced changes to the Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder (NCR) provisions of the Criminal Code. This resulted in Bill C-14 – The Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act – which took effect on July 11, 2014. While strengthening victim’s rights, the changes also included  longer eligibility for reivew period for individuals deemed NCR for a violent crime (pushed to every three years as opposed to annual), and that "high risk" NCR accused cannot be considered for release by a Review Board until their designation is revoked by a court.
 
Given the significance of these changes, Canada's mental health community has come together to form a working Alliance. This Alliance is comprised of all of the Schizophrenia Societies across Canada, including the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO), and other national mental health organizations. SSO is currently working to ensure that changes to the NCR provision will address the therapeutic needs of individuals with mental illnesses, rather than create further stigmatization and undermine public safety.

Federal Election 2015

 
The Ontario Mental Health and Addictions Alliance is a coalition of provincial organizations, including SSO, from across the continuum of care – from community to hospital services and consumer/ family organizations. The Alliance is calling to all Federal Parties to make mental health and addictions an election priority.  To read the position statement, click here.
 
As part of our federal Election work, SSO further endorsed campaign for national pharmacare to ensure that all Canadians will be able to access, and afford, medication treatments that they need. To learn more about this campaign, click here.

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