AMO Letter to Minister of Health: Health and Human Services

Sent via e-mail:

August 30, 2022
The Honourable Sylvia Jones
Minister of Health
College Park, 5th Floor
777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2J3

Dear Minister Jones:

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has consistently advocated for and provided the government with advice on behalf of municipal governments and their residents about both health and social policy. I am writing you today, with a copy to Premier Ford and your colleagues in the human service ministries, to request a ‘government to government’ conversation about how to work together to increase the integration of policy development and service planning between the Ministry of Health, the human service ministries, municipal governments, and District Social Service Administration Boards. This is urgently needed to address pressing issues for people and communities in Ontario.

This includes addressing the housing crisis, homelessness, mental health and addictions, poverty and overcoming barriers to gaining and maintaining employment as well as successful community reintegration of inmates discharged from correctional facilities. When left unaddressed, these issues will continue taking a devastating toll on people and communities. Further, it should serve to improve outcomes for people in line with shared provincial and municipal public policy objectives.

A ‘whole of government’ approach is needed to solve these ‘wicked societal problems’ that are complex and multifaceted. They must be approached in several ways with all contributing in accordance with their respective roles, responsibilities, and resources. With increased integration of provincial and municipal health and human services, much can be accomplished.

One example is the growing homelessness crisis. It amounts to an economic and social disaster in Ontario’s municipalities. There are several reasons to act, including both for moral and economic reasons, and for community safety. AMO has called for action to prevent, reduce and ultimately to end homelessness to a point where it is rare, brief, and non-reoccurring. As indicated in our previous letter to Premier Ford, we support the call from the Ontario's Big City Mayors for an urgent emergency meeting to address this crisis.

All municipal and sector associations must be brought together to discuss immediate and long-term solutions as homelessness is a widespread issue affecting communities across the province. It is critically important that the Ministry of Health actively participate in both the meeting and the ongoing government effort, as a lack of access to adequate health services prevents people from breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty.

Another area is the provincial efforts to transform social assistance and employment services with an increased focus on providing up-front life stability supports to improve employment outcomes. Achieving effective life stabilization, and ultimately to help people secure a job is dependent on good health. Primary care and mental health and addictions services are desperately needed for vulnerable and marginalized people to help achieve the outcomes the government is seeking for social assistance recipients. For many, supportive housing is the solution.

There is currently a staff level Provincial-Municipal Social Assistance and Employment Committee (PMSAEC) that is jointly co-chaired by AMO, the City of Toronto, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (MCCSS) with participation from other human service ministries including the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills. Participation by senior Ministry of Health staff in this committee is essential. One topic should be how to increase an integrated provincial-municipal response to mental health and addictions services using AMO’s recent submission as a basis for discussion.

As well, there are other forums such as the Human Services Collaborative Table co-chaired by MCCSS and the Ontario Municipal Social Services Association (OMSSA). This table is designed to facilitate collaboration to achieve increased human service integration at both the provincial and local levels, with a goal of improving system and client outcomes. This is a vital government initiative led by MCCSS which must continue with partner human service ministries and would benefit from the Ministry of Health as a fully engaged partner.

Lastly, through recent correspondence we provided our association’s advice and recommendations in a submission about how to strengthen the public health system. Upstream interventions are essential to promoting population health outcomes and will yield dividends and return on investment by improving outcomes for people to stabilize their lives and gain employment.

Previous consultations on public health modernization by the government in 2019 included a probing of the connections between public health interventions along with human services that address the social determinants of health. This should be included in the scope of continuing conversations. As per AMO’s recent submission, we are recommending an inquiry into public health with a COVID-19 pandemic lens and then a resumption of consultations once the pandemic waves have subsided.

Thank you for your consideration. AMO encourages and looks forward to a conversation about how municipal governments, District Social Service Administration Boards, and provincial government ministries (including health) can work together in an integrated manner to achieve improved outcomes for people based on our shared interests.

Colin Best
AMO President
Halton Regional Councillor

The Honourable Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
The Honourable Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
The Honourable Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
The Honourable Michael Parsa, Associate Minister of Housing
The Honourable Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
The Honourable Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education
The Honourable Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development
The Honourable Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General
Dr. Catherine Zahn, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Health
Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Ministry of Health
Kate Manson-Smith, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Denise Allyson Cole, Deputy Minister, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
Mario Di Tommaso, Deputy Minister, Ministry of the Solicitor General
Nancy Naylor, Deputy Minister, Minister of Education
Greg Meredith, Deputy Minister, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development
Cam Guthrie, Chair, Ontario’s Big City Mayors
Karen Redman, Chair, Mayors and Regional Chairs of Ontario
Trudy Sachowski, President, Association of Local Public Health Agencies
Michelle Boileau, Chair, Northern Ontario Service Deliverers Association
Cathy Cousins, President, Ontario Municipal Social Services Association

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