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OPSEU to MPPs: Help end workplace violence in mental health care

The union representing over 7,000 mental health care workers is calling on the province to help end “an epidemic of violence” that has caused workplace stress to skyrocket and is sending injured workers to hospital on a regular basis.

“Mental health facilities and community agencies are not doing nearly enough to protect their employees from violence in the workplace,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “We’re calling on all MPPs, regardless of party, to help give these employers both the motivation and the resources they need to do so.”

Some 30 OPSEU mental health workers from across Ontario arrived at Queen’s Park today to update MPPs on workplace conditions and ask for their support for more funding and more supports for occupational health and safety.

“We’re not here to stigmatize the patients,” said Ed Arvelin, chair of OPSEU’s Mental Health Division. “We’re here because when we’re safe, everybody’s safe.

“Mental health workers don’t have the tools and resources they need to do the job and do it safely,” he said. “We need ongoing training in self-defense and security functions, we need protective equipment, and we need better alert systems. Our goal as mental health care providers is to maintain a therapeutic relationship with all our patients, but that’s very hard to do if we’re not in a safe environment.”

Arvelin said some of the $1.9 billion the federal government has earmarked for mental health care under the latest 10-year federal-provincial health accord must go to making mental health workplaces safer.

“The funding that has been allocated so far has not gone to acute care adult mental health programs. We’ve got higher acuity on wards than ever, and that is creating violent situations. In our workplaces, there is a violent act each and every day.”

For more information: Ed Arvelin, 807-628-9187