Essential workers need access to mental health services

Bed in a long term care home. © Can Stock Photo / stokkete

An MPP from Hamilton is working on a new bill that would ensure essential workers have access to mental health care.

MPP Monique Taylor is introducing a bill in April that would give all employees working at a job designated as essential presumptive coverage for mental health supports through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

“Workers on the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 have made incredible sacrifices, putting their own health at risk to keep us safe and care for our loved ones,” said Taylor. “They have worked long hours, often in the most difficult conditions without taking time off, and many have suffered from the mental and emotional toll this has had on them and their families. Workers have experienced stress and anxiety, and we are seeing more and more cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions being reported.”

The bill would give these workers access to WSIB benefits for chronic or traumatic mental stress injuries without the need to prove that they suffered these injuries while working during a pandemic.

Tammy Reed, who works at a long-term care home in Hamilton is off work right now because of the toll a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility has had on her mental health.

“We now have staff that fell sick and have tried to go back and fell flat on their face. They can’t do it. They walked in and the anxiety, the panic, the fear,” said Reed.

She said they are left struggling with where to turn and how to pay their bills if they can’t return to work.

Reed has been off of work for two months, has little coverage through her workplace benefits and is still waiting for WSIB.

“I have a diagnosis, I am dealing with PTSD, numerous of my staff are and I hoping that my co-workers will come forward. They are struggling and I hope that we can get them the help,” said Reed.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Amendment Act (Access to Mental Health Support for Essential Workers) bill will be debated on April 12, 2021.

“We know that the fourth wave of this pandemic is going to be mental health and we need to ensure that people, that workers have access to real services and the WSIB doesn’t have the ability to fight back against those workers. That’s why the presumptive clause was such an important piece,” said Taylor.