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SSO's Advocacy

November 2019

Since our inception in 1979, the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) has provided information about emerging issues, advocacy opportunities and ways that everyone can get involved to improve the mental health and addiction system and make a positive difference in the lives of people, families and communities affected by schizophrenia and psychosis.

What we’re doing today
Our advocacy work is focused on improving quality access to mental health care in both the community and in the hospital; responding to health system changes in the province; access to medication; education about the intersection of the mental health and justice systems; diversion programs and corrections reform; education relating to the legalization of cannabis and access to income supports for individuals with mental health concerns. We have seen many improvements but there is still much more work to be done.

Improving Access to Mental Health Care

  • A new initiative we have embarked on at SSO has involved examining mental health legislation in the province with an eye to improving access to timely mental health care. To this end, we have convened an advisory committee of health care providers, lawyers, a privacy expert, caregivers and people with lived experience to search for solutions and opportunities. In the coming months, we will be distributing a survey to learn more about the barriers that our constituents are facing in accessing care and in what directions, if any, they feel we should focus our advocacy.

Health System Transformation in Ontario

  • Another new initiative of SSO relates to health system transformation in Ontario. In April, the provincial government passed Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, which among other things will create Ontario Health Teams that will deliver coordinated health care throughout the province. SSO has been working closely with several other provincial organizations to determine how we can keep mental health and addictions care front and centre as part of system reform. Stay tuned for more updates on this initiative.
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  • SSO continues to work closely with government partners to advocate for the voice of those who experience schizophrenia and psychosis and their caregivers. We recently attended a mental health roundtable in Oakville hosted by Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo. We met with him again this month to continue our discussions on the importance of serious mental illness as part of health system transformation in the province. Additionally, the provincial government recently introduced legislation to create a Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence. SSO is excited by this new initiative and will be meeting with the Centre’s senior leadership later in the fall.

Health Quality Ontario

  • SSO will be continuing our strong working relationship with Health Quality Ontario by helping to inform their next quality standard. This standard will focus on improving quality care for patients being discharged from a mental health related hospitalization to home and to the community. Look out for upcoming advocacy alerts about providing your feedback on this standard.

Cannabis Forums

  • We concluded our cannabis forums in Toronto on October 16, 2019. Following successful forums in Hamilton, Peterborough and Ottawa our final forum in Toronto was held with the support of Turning Point Youth Services and Skylark Children, Youth and Families. Through these forums we reached over 120 youth, parents and professionals to share the facts on cannabis and psychosis. Thank you to everyone who attended these forums!

Navigating the Criminal Justice System

  • SSO has partnered with another local service agency, Fred Victor, to deliver workshops for caregivers and professionals on how individuals with mental health concerns can navigate the criminal justice system in Ontario. We delivered three workshops this past spring and collected evaluation forms from the participants. We will be using the evaluations to plan for future workshops, expected to begin in the New Year.

Patients (Re)Defining Health Care Summit

  • SSO once again partnered with the Save Your Skin Foundation and new partner The Canadian Psoriasis Network to co-host the Patients (Re)Defining Health Care Summit (formerly the Drug Pricing Policy Summit). This year’s fourth-annual summit was on November 12-13 and focused on value-based health care. To bring greetings on behalf of the provincial government, SSO secured Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health Robin Martin. The summit was a success with over 85 attendees representing both patients of the health care system and industry leaders. Our learnings from the summit will be shared with the Ministry of Health to ensure that patient-driven value-based health care stays front and centre.

Correctional Reform Coalition

  • SSO continues to be a strong advocate for corrections reform. Our advocacy has focused on reducing the use of segregation in provincial correctional institutions and the immediate prohibition of segregation for vulnerable groups. To strengthen our advocacy in this area, the SSO-led Coalition on Reforming Segregation in Ontario’s Correctional Institutions has merged with the Correctional Health Care Coalition (led by the John Howard Society of Ontario) to form the Correctional Reform Coalition. We look forward to continuing this important work as a merged coalition.

Justice and Mental Health

  • Over the past few months, we have provided three submissions relating to corrections reform and diversion practices in Ontario. We were invited by the Solicitor General’s office to provide suggestions for police training and opportunities for diversion and to provide feedback on a proposed definition for mental illness to be used in correctional contexts. We also responded to a call for feedback to the government on proposed amendments to the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, which relate to the review and length of segregation in Ontario.

Defining Disability

  • The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services recently announced proposed changes to income security, including changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works. These changes may include a revision to the definition of disability used by ODSP, to align with the federal definition. SSO was invited to take part in a Ministry-led consultation on the definition of disability and we provided our feedback in support of a definition that is inclusive of individuals with episodic disabilities. We are still waiting for details on what these changes will mean for recipients of ODSP and their continued eligibility for the program and look forward to continuing to work with the ministry.
Stay tuned for more updates from SSO on each of these initiatives and more! If you have any questions or feedback, please contact Kaelen Boyd, policy analyst, at kboyd@schizophrenia.on.ca