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The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario Releases Recommendations to Improve Access to Medications

June 29, 2015 – TORONTO – Despite having a Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, Ontario’s healthcare system covers only 43 per cent of prescription medication costs, leaving access to medication for Ontarians far below what is acceptable under international standards. For many living in Ontario, especially people with mental illness, difficulties in accessing medications is a challenge that can have devastating effects on their health and well-being.

Today the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario (SSO) released “Prescription for Holistic Care: Improving Access to Medications Through Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy,” a paper that examines the barriers to accessing medications and makes recommendations for how accessibility problems can be solved by making improvements to Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

“One core issue is that medications are often used as a first line of treatment for mental illness and may have to be used over an extended period of time. Under the current model of coverage this presents long-term costs to individuals, families, and the healthcare system,” said Irina Sytcheva, Manager of Policy and Community Relations at SSO. “Another crucial issue is not all medications are approved for use in a timely way, preventing people from accessing medications that may be most effective. This paper provides short, medium and long-term solutions that will make accessing medications easier for the people who need them most.”

In the policy paper SSO makes a number of recommendations including:

· The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) should expand existing Ontario Public Drug Programs to cover access to psychiatric medications for people who are transitioning between coverage plans or have low-income status.

· MOHLTC should disclose details on what criteria are used to decide which medications qualify for coverage and how criteria are weighed.

· MOHLTC should provide access to specialized supports for individuals and families who are beginning new psychiatric medications, or whose medications are being adjusted.

· MOHLTC should develop mechanisms to allow direct feedback from medication users and their families in to the public input system.

· MOHLTC should develop resources and supports to help individuals and families understand and navigate their medication reimbursement options.

The paper is a starting point to include medication within Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy framework and to address the system-level barriers in order to improve access to medications for all Ontarians.

“The time is now to put individuals and families affected by mental illness first and challenge the status quo,” said Mary Alberti, CEO of SSO. “Access to healthcare, including access to medications, is a fundamental human right – we cannot continue to flourish as a society by neglecting it.”

To read the paper in its entirety, please
click here.
To read the executive summary, please click here.