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Eliminate barriers to employment, says mental health partnership

For Immediate Release – June 29, 2011 – (Toronto) People who live with mental health issues can be employed, want to be employed, and should be supported to find and keep jobs.  That is the message of a report launched today by three mental health organizations.  The report recommends a series of policy changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) to promote and reward earned income.
What Stops Us from Working? is a project of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Houselink Community Homes, and The Dream Team.  The Dream Team is an advocacy group representing people with mental health issues.
“People work for lots of reasons – fulfillment, connecting with others, and – of course – a paycheque,” said Phillip Dufresne of the Dream Team.  “Yet for many people who rely on the ODSP, work is made more difficult because of how it affects benefits.”
The report profiles the stories of nine people living with mental health problems who have attempted to find and keep employment.  Based on these experiences, the report recommends a number of changes to ODSP that strengthen the incentive to work, including:
  • A time-limited relaxation of the reduction in ODSP benefits due to employment income.
  • Better coordination with other government benefit programs, particularly housing.
  • The option of annual – rather than monthly – reconciliation, in order to decrease the impact of month-to-month income fluctuations.
  • An on-line calculator that would assist recipients to calculate benefit changes due to earned income.
“Our members have been helped to find decent, supportive housing, and it has changed their lives,” said Brian Davis, Executive Director of Houselink.  “Our members also need employment – as a way out of poverty and a way of contributing to their communities.”
“At CAMH we have seen what happens to our clients when they find meaningful work,” said Susan Pigott, Vice-President Communications and Community Engagement at CAMH.  “Clients with jobs are better off, their clinical outcomes are superior, and their use of health services is significantly reduced.”
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The report was produced by Open Policy Ontario, led by social policy consultant John Stapleton.
For a copy of the report please visit www.thedreamteam.ca.
For more information please contact:
John Stapleton, Open Policy Ontario, 416 298-0963 or 416 988-5936, jsbb@rogers.com
CAMH Switchboard 416-535-8501
CAMH General Information Toronto: 416-595-6111 Toll Free: 1-800-463-6273
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