By Ron Giofu
Courtesy of the Rivertown Times
The leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP) was in Amherstburg with the universal mentalhealth care plan she announced top of mind.
Andrea Horwath also spoke with owners and managers of small businesses in Amherstburg, just hours after she also addressed the mental health proposal at a stop in Windsor. She was joined on her trip to Amherstburg by Essex candidate Ron LeClair, current Essex MPP Taras Natyshak, Windsor-Tecumseh candidate Gemma Grey-Hall, Councillor Michael Prue among others, and visited Happier Camper and the River Bookshop.
Horwath said LeClair was taking her around “showing me what he loves in his riding.”
“It feels nice to be here,” she said.
Horwath announced the NDP’s universal mental health plan Sunday that will cover counselling and therapy under OHIP, and expand publicly funded mental health services so they’re more accessible, and waits are shorter. She said that will reduce wait times for both children and adults, something that is an issue for people in Windsor-Essex County.
Some people have to wait over a year, she said, with adults having to pay out of pocket when they can access service while children also face long waiting lists, something she said “is nothing short of cruel.”
“People can’t get the mental health and supports they need,” she said. “The mental health system has been broken for a long time.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the issue even more to the forefront, Horwath believes.
At least one in four Ontarians sought mental health or addictions help during the pandemic.
“COVID has only deepened the struggles people are facing,” said Horwath. “Some kids are struggling with personality changes and anxiety since the school shut downs. So many of us are coping with grief, loss, financial stress and worry for the health of our loved ones. No one should suffer with nowhere to turn. No one should feel like help is out of reach because they can’t afford it.”
Horwath said some services are covered by OHIP if delivered through a Family Health Team, but there are Ontarians who have to go on waiting lists that are “really, really long.”
Horwath said she also plans to make further commitments to address the opioid and overdose epidemic. The NDP’s Universal Mental Health plan is estimated to cost $1.15 billion when fully implemented.
As for the recent announcement of the $5 billion electric vehicle battery plant that both the federal and provincial government are supporting, Horwath said she and the NDP were pleased to hear it. “I think it’s great news all around,” she said of the
Horwath said there needs to be an increase in electric vehicles and said her party would bring back electric vehicle credits, help municipalities and individuals acquire the charging infrastructure they would need and make buying electric vehicles something that everyone can afford.
“We need people to be able to buy electric cars,” said Horwath. “Everyone has to have access to do the right thing and go electric.”
LeClair said having Horwath in the riding shows the importance of the area and said not only have mental health services been “broken,” but the entire system has been “broken for 15 years or more.”
“We’re here and coming to fix things that need to be fixed,” he said.
New Democrats also want to assist small businesses as the province emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, LeClair added, as that is why they were at two small businesses chatting with manager and owners to see what they needed.