Ontario Patients for Psychotherapy
Protect public funding for quality mental health care
Between 2019 and 2022, the Ontario Government threatened to privatize a crucial mental health service. It could do so again in 2024.
What mental health service was threatened?
In 2019, the Ontario Ministry of Health (MOH) proposed funding cuts to OHIP-insured psychotherapy without patient consultation.
If our treatment was cut, it was not going to come back. So patients came together to save their pathway to health.
Cuts to publicly-funded psychotherapy already happened in other countries like Australia and the U.K., which denied life-saving support for people who suffer from chronic and acute mental and emotional distress.
What were the proposed changes to psychotherapy coverage?
The Ontario Ministry of Health proposed to cap OHIP-funding for lifesaving psychotherapy to a unilateral, arbitrary maximum of 24 hours per year no matter the person’s treatment plan or need. Changes would have take effect within a few months after the negotiations ended. The arbitrary limit would have interrupted active treatment plans without the clinician’s or patient’s approval, and would have left people with serious mental health conditions without sufficient care to recover.
After a vigorous campaign by advocacy groups including Ontario Patients for Psychotherapy, in March 2022 Ontarians were given a reprieve until the end of the current physician services agreement that ends in March 2024. We are still concerned that MOH may eventually remove physician coverage altogether and shunt patients into short-term interventions.
Isn't the government increasing mental health funding?
Public funding for specialized mental health care remains threatened because the Ministry of Health is shifting mental health funding to short-term treatment plans. Proposing cuts to existing care will harm Ontarians who frequently have failed routine interventions for persistent, complex trauma or for co-morbid or medically unexplained conditions.
What's the worry about 2024?
Full funding is only guaranteed until 2024. Patients were under threat from January 2019 until March 31, 2022 when physicians ratified an agreement that protects full psychotherapy coverage until March 2024. Grassroots advocacy continued throughout the private negotiation process. Ontario Patients for Psychotherapy won public recognition for their efforts in 2021. Our website is meant to educate and motivate people to protect public funding for those who do not respond to short-term psychoeducation and who need effective psychotherapy.
Shouldn’t the experts decide limits?
Experts already decide the limits based on established guidelines and clinical judgment for each patient's needs. Ministry of Health managers wanted to impose a one-size-fits-all session cap despite the clinician's treatment plan. Psychotherapy patients were afterthoughts in a professional dispute with the government over psychotherapeutic modalities and service delivery.
Peer-reviewed evidence over decades demonstrates that intensive psychotherapy delivered by accredited clinicians works. Many people with acute and prolonged mental distress have found piecemeal, short-term treatments do not promote lasting recovery. The treatment is reserved for complex conditions and is very difficult and time consuming, so most psychotherapy patients do not need or use intensive treatment.
The proposal to cut funding was made without consulting affected patients because government advisors unilaterally decided the maximum hours of treatment. The OMA/MOH negotiations banned input from the affected patients, which contradicts the MOH “Declaration of Patients Values.” The message was that the voice and needs of existing and future patients of psychotherapy do not matter.
But isn't psychotherapy
You would think differently if you or a loved one (like your child, your spouse, your parent or friend) suffered from a life-threatening eating disorder, a dangerous drug addiction, serial suicide and self-harm attempts, or debilitating depression that did not respond to usual treatment.
For many the consequences include chronic hospitalizations or emergency room visits, the inability to work or to be a reliable parent or spouse due to crippling mental distress. The cost to the tax-payer of not consistently treating this at-risk population is considerable.
Intensive therapy is an essential tool for treating serious mental illness and disability. Most people do not have the resources to buy the care they need, which is why OHIP covers intensive and ongoing psychotherapy.
Who will this affect?
Adults, children, the elderly. People with combined conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and chronic disabilities. Children and teenagers experiencing psychosis, severe anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions or suicidal thoughts and attempts. Women recovering from violent domestic abuse, post-partum depression or psychosis. Adult survivors of childhood sexual and physical abuse, of wars and near-fatal accidents. These are your relatives, your neighbours, your co-workers, your friends.
I might lose my psychotherapy coverage?
Yes the government threatened to privatize your care beyond the annual limit. It may do so again. To get the care you need, you would have to pay out of pocket for all or some of the hourly fee, currently up to $170.