London, Ont., MPP introduces bill to cover devices that help with mental health treatment

NDP London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan. Christian D'Avino / 980 CFPL

With the number of people struggling with mental health on the rise, a local MPP is proposing a new bill that would cover devices used to support mental health treatment.

NDP London North Centre MPP Terence Kernaghan says if approved, the bill would extend Ontario’s Assistive Devices Program to cover technological devices used to support mental health care treatments and the data costs associated with them.

“This would include coverage of devices which allow patients to virtually access medical and counselling appointments, relay heart rate, physical activity, and sleep data to health-care providers and automatically dispense medications,” said Kernaghan.

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Kernaghan says this is especially important with the ongoing issue of hallway health care.

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“We have to ensure Ontarians experiencing mental health crisis are not left stranded in hospital hallways or beds because our health-care system simply does not have space for them,” Kernaghan said.

“By providing mental health supports right at home with assistive devices, this bill can help people lead fuller more independent and safer lives and help people end the cycle of crisis and hospitalization.”

Research by the London Health Science Centre researchers showed Ontarians with mental health needs showed positive health outcomes once they had access to devices that support their treatment plan.

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A study by researcher Cheryl Forchuk of Lawson Health Research Institute found that Ontarians who use assistive devices for their mental health felt more empowered, less isolated and more integrated in their communities.

According to the study, nearly 80 per cent of participants found assistive devices for mental health improved their overall health and resulted in fewer visits to a social service provider or a hospital emergency department.

“The pandemic has reaffirmed that there can be no health without mental health. In the 21st century, we know new technologies are available to support mental as well as physical health,” Forchuk said.

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“We need legislation that does not discriminate based on the type of disability.”

Kernaghan’s private member’s bill, Bill 277, will be debated in the legislature and voted on Thursday.

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