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Ontario will now provide free therapy to those with anxiety and depression

Ontario's Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the new $20 million program, Mindability, earlier this week.

Ontario will now provide free therapy to those with anxiety and depression
Image Source: Facebook / Christine Elliott

Soon enough, residents of Ontario, a province in Canada, will be able to access free therapy if they have been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, The Huffington Post reports. The move is part of a new program called Mindability and was announced by Health Minister Christine Elliott on Tuesday, March 3. At present, mental health services are only covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan if they are provided by a family doctor, at a hospital, or by a psychiatrist. However, not everyone needs to visit a psychiatrist in order to tackle their mental health problems. Therefore, this new initiative will provide much-needed access to help to those who would have otherwise been underserved.




"Mindability will be funded just like OHIP [Ontario Health Insurance Plan], with no out-of-pocket cost to patients," Minister Elliott stated. "Through this groundbreaking program, an individual will receive an assessment from a trained mental health clinician and offered a therapy program that best addresses their level of need." The program will provide cognitive behavioral therapy for those diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression. Should a patient have more severe issues that need to be addressed, they will have access to more specialized services. She clarified, "If it’s a more acute episode, if it’s something else that’s happening, they will be treated elsewhere."




Minister Elliott also pointed out that not everyone needs to see a psychiatrist. As there are already long waiting lists in order to see one, Mindability is expected to ease the burden on Ontario's existing mental health infrastructure. She affirmed, "Ontario is finally, finally turning a corner." Under the new program, patients will be able to sign up online, over a quick phone call, or even by text message. This makes access a whole lot easier and more seamless. After registering, patients will be given either internet modules and workbooks in addition to over-the-phone coaching or in-person group or individual therapy.



Though a specific pilot date has not been announced, the program will be launched in Spring 2020. This year, the government is spending a total of $20 million. By the end of the year, Mindability will be extended in order to help more residents and cover even more services. When fully implemented at the end of three to four years, the program is projected to help at least 80,000 individuals. Mental health services, after all, are not a "one size fits all" solution, as the Minister noted. "No [two] patients are the same. We all know that," she stated. "The long-haul truck driver feeling isolated from friends and family, the middle-aged professional struggling with work performance, the Grade 11 student whose studies are now slipping: Each of these individuals has unique needs. But by matching them with the most appropriate level of support, Mindability will make a real difference in their lives."




Nonetheless, mental health experts have reminded Minister Elliott that this new strategy must be matched with increased funding in the future. In order to truly make an impact, it has been estimated that the government will need to spend a minimum of $380 million more every year so as to reduce wait times for services outside of Mindability's offerings, including intensive therapy and supportive housing. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner agreed with mental health service providers who believe more funding is required. "I’m skeptical of the premier’s commitment to investing in front-line mental health solutions," he shared. Irrespective, it is hoped that Minability is the stepping stone to a more progressive mental healthcare solution.



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