On May 5, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibollo, announced the expansion of services to help Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic, including frontline health care workers.
In partnership with MindBeacon and Morneau Shepell, the government has significantly increased the availability of Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs for Ontarians. These programs will be provided at no out-of-pocket cost to patients.
Supports specific to frontline health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout or post-traumatic stress disorder include virtual face-to-face care, weekly online peer discussion groups and access to confidential support from a clinician.
Minister Tibollo also announced the establishment of a Mental Health and Addictions COVID-19 Response Table, led by the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence at Ontario Health. This Response Table will include representatives from across the mental health sector and will connect with other COVID-19 tables to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on access to public mental health and addictions services.
Easing of COVID-19 Restrictions in Ontario and Ongoing Support Measures
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford responded to questions from media regarding the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario and ongoing measures to support Ontarians.
In response to questions about allowing cottage owners to travel to their properties, Premier Ford confirmed that he would be speaking to cottage country mayors on a conference call later this week. He admitted that it will be increasingly difficult to restrict people from travelling to their cottages, particularly those paying municipal taxes on these properties. He warned cottage country to prepare for an influx over the May long weekend. Premier Ford expressed that if the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop Ontarians should be allowed to visit their cottage properties so long as they bring their own supplies and food and remain on their own property.
Premier Ford was also asked about the discrepancy of allowing Ontarians who are wealthy enough to own cottage properties to travel north, while lower-income Ontarians living in apartments are required to stay inside and asked not to use parks. In response to this question Premier Ford said he understood and indicated that good news would be coming on this front.
When asked about a decline in Ontario’s testing numbers to 10,000 today, Premier Ford expressed frustration with the performance of some of the province’s 34 chief medical officers. He pointed to the Alberta model as successful and suggested that Ontario may look to adopt a similar model in the future, with one chief medical officer in control.
Finally, Premier Ford also confirmed that the suspension of time-of-use electricity rates will be extended to provide continued relief for families, small businesses, and farms. The initial suspension of time-of-use pricing was originally set to end this week.