May 31, 2011
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Room 281
The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) would like to bring to your attention the serious gaps in mental health services that impact people with hearing loss in Ontario. In this province, 10% of the population is culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, to a tune of 1.3 million individuals. In addition, 20% of this population suffer from mental health and addictions issues, for a total of 240,000 individuals.
Mr. Premier, we are talking about almost a quarter of a million people who need services, and who cannot access services because they are not all accessible to their communication needs.
CHS is grateful for the funding we have received since 2003 from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to provide a community-based mental health program: CONNECT Counselling Services. The close-to-$3,000,000 (three million dollars) annually allows for approximately 20 counsellors to be allocated across the province.
CHS is well established in Ontario and recognized in Canada, as well as in the USA, as a leader in mental health services for culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing populations, demonstrating best practices in community-based service delivery with a 90% success outcome – a success rate that would be challenging and frankly not possible for any other community-based mental health program to achieve serving the clients that we serve.
The Ontario Quality Council in its annual report cited CONNECT and MOHLTC as an example of innovation and cost-effectiveness in providing accessible healthcare services while reducing wait times.
From each corner of the province patterns of unmet need, based on discrimination and lack of expertise, understanding and access, have become clear. Culturally deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing citizens have no access to addiction services and/or court diversion services. The hearing population, minimally, do not face the barriers our clients experience every day and this indifference and inequity cannot continue. We cannot continue to bear the costs both financially and ethically.
The denial of service is no less than a breach of the Charter (Supreme Court of Canada, Eldridge vs. BC, 1997). Government-funded programs must be accessible to the culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing citizens of Ontario as they are to hearing Ontarians. We know that in the MOHLTC, MAG, Correctional Services, and MCSS, ministries of the Ontario government, there are insurmountable barriers to program services faced by culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing individuals. CHS represents and serves clients who are no less than trapped in inaccessible mental health systems, the forensic psychiatric systems, and the criminal justice systems – clients who are wrongfully incarcerated, receiving inaccessible addiction treatments, and whose mental health issues are misdiagnosed – at an exorbitant cost to tax payers and to the individuals’ abilities to succeed and recover.
CHS has submitted a proposal, not once but twice (November 2006 & March 2008), for expansion of our CONNECT services. In the fall of 2010 CHS hosted an education day at Queen’s Park where we met with many MPPS, Cabinet Ministers and Policy staff. We provided very detailed information outlining the critical importance of CHS CONNECT services; individuals and family members joined us to relate their experience of the gaps in services for mental health and of the support they receive from our program.
Both times we submitted our proposals, they were completely in line with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions: offering an accessible basket of services in each region of the province tailored to the needs of the consumer. Former Minister of Health and Long-Term Care David Caplan suggested that all community-based mental health services ought to operate on the same “ideal model” that the CHS CONNECT program uses.
We are requesting your assistance, as our Premier, to follow up and act on the recommendations. I am confident that you will agree that accountable, accessible and efficient services for culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing people can be achieved by supporting CHS CONNECT, preventing people from falling through the cracks of essential services that we can make otherwise readily available to them.
Attached with this letter are two separate proposals, one for Addictions, and one for Court Diversion. We believe these two documents will assist you in understanding the importance of this letter we are writing to you.
We look forward to receiving your earliest response to our concerns, and the Province’s plan of action to moving forward in making Ontario a better place for its culturally Deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing citizens in need of essential mental health, addictions and court diversion services.
President and CEO
C.C. Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health
Hon. Chris Bentley, Attorney-General
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community & Social Services
Tim Hudak, MPP
Andrea Horwath, MPP
Christine Elliott, MPP
France Gelinas, MPP
Download the letter and further resources below: