'Years of neglect:' ONA calls on province to fund Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia

The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) says a lack of provincial support for the Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia has reached an "unsafe point."

Program had more than 100 new clients past years and only 9 staff

The NDP and Ontario Nurses Association want the Ford government to better support the Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia. (syolacan)

A lack of provincial support for the Hamilton Program for Schizophrenia (HPS) has reached an "unsafe point," according to the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA).

HPS has nine staff and hasn't had new employees despite an increasing number of clients, and there's a growing wait list, says the ONA, the union representing 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals.

"Our members cannot work in these extremely challenging conditions any more. They need support so that their clients can get the care they so desperately need," ONA president Vicki McKenna said in a news release.

Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor, also the NDP mental health and addictions critic, said the number of HPS clients is roughly double the limit set by provincial guidelines.

"This is another program the government has chosen not to fund, and another lineup of folks waiting for services and treatment they need to live healthy lives," Taylor said in an interview last week.

Pandemic's affect on mental health

The ONA call comes amid a pandemic that has seen the number of people with mental health issues climb, according to Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Health-care unions have also said their workers have struggled during the pandemic.

The HPS and the Ontario Ministry of Health did not respond to requests for interview and comment.

ONA says a conciliation was set for Monday (June 21) between it and HPS, with a conciliation officer appointed by the province, to try to resolve the issues.

The ONA says the province allocated more than $175 million in funding to various organizations and programs for mental health support, but the ONA and Taylor say HPS hasn't received any new funding in more than a decade.

"That's years of neglect, and wait lists and people suffering because of that," Taylor said.