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London politician urges Liberals to do more for mental health

London West New Democrat MPP Peggy Sattler.
London West New Democrat MPP Peggy Sattler. Peggy Sattler

A London politician is putting the provincial government in the hot seat over a project to help mental health patients in the city.

NDP MPP Peggy Sattler urged government officials at Queens Park Thursday to sign off on an pilot initiative, developed a year ago, that would divert 3,000 mental health patients each year from the ER to a crisis centre.

“The mental health crisis in my community keeps getting worse,” said Sattler, adding that health care providers and EMS have been asking for an approval for months. “The minister told the media… that the project is already underway, but in fact it’s waiting on his desk for sign off.”

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said he looked into the project, but couldn’t sign off due to legislation only allowing ambulances to transfer people to public hospitals.

“I’m taking this very, very seriously,” said Hoskins in a debate between both politicians during question period. “The ministry is looking at this but it does have bigger implications.”

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The project – developed by the LHSC, CMHA Middlesex and Middlesex-London EMS – would pour $2.5-million in cost savings back into London mental health services. It would specifically fund crisis centre nursing staff and place patients in bed rather than stretchers.

“Will the minister commit to signing off today, so that the project can proceed immediately,” Sattler asked Thursday.

“I can no more sign off on a pilot, which is nowhere near my desk by the way, because it would be breaking the law,” responded Hoskins.

The LHSC psychiatric emergency was at 153 per cent capacity this week, with up to 30 people waiting for beds, reported in media release by the NDP.

With files from Hala Ghonaim

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