Ontario Government Introduces Legislation to Create New Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence and Enable the Province to Sue Opioid Manufacturers

3 juin 2019 | Kathryn M. Frelick

( Disponible en anglais seulement )

On May 27, 2019, the provincial government introduced Bill 116, Foundations for Promoting and Protecting Mental Health and Addictions Services Act, 2019.  If passed, the legislation will:

  • Establish the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence (the “Centre of Excellence”) within Ontario Health.
  • Give Ontario a direct cause of action against manufacturers and wholesalers of opioid products to recover the cost of health care benefits caused or contributed to by an “opioid-related wrong”.  This will enable the province to participate in a national class action lawsuit launched by British Columbia against opioid manufacturers and wholesalers.

In this respect, Bill 116 is comprised of two components:

Schedule 1: Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence Act, 2019 (the “Act”)

Bill 116 will enable the establishment of the Centre of Excellence within Ontario Health.  The objects of Ontario Health will be amended to enable the centralized agency to support the mental health and addictions strategy developed under the Act.

The Act requires the Minister of Health and Long Term Care to develop and maintain the mental health and addictions strategy, “recognizing that mental health and addictions care is a core component of an integrated health care system”.  The Centre of Excellence will be responsible for putting this strategy into operation.

The Centre of Excellence will undertake a number of functions.  These include the development of clinical, quality and service standards for mental health and addictions; the development of metrics to measure performance; and the provision of resources and support to health service providers, Ontario Health Teams and others related to mental health and addictions.

If passed, the Act will come into effect upon proclamation by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Schedule 2: Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, 2019 (the “Opioid Act”)

Bill 116 will establish the Opioid Act and amend the Limitations Act (Ontario) to enable the provincial government to sue manufacturers and wholesalers of opioid products to recover the cost of health care benefits caused or contributed to by an “opioid-related wrong”.  This may be done on behalf of an individual or on an aggregate basis.

“Opioid related wrong” refers to:

  • a tort committed in Ontario by a manufacturer or wholesaler that causes or contributes to opioid-related disease, injury or illness; or
  • a breach of a common law, equitable or statutory duty or obligation owed to persons in Ontario who have or might have used or been or might have been exposed to an opioid product, where use of the opioid product can cause or contribute to disease, injury or illness; and the type of opioid product, manufactured or promoted by the defendant, was offered for distribution or sale in Ontario.

“Disease, injury or illness” is defined to include “problematic substance use, addiction and general deterioration of health.

The Opioid Act sets out rules, presumptions and the process by which the Ontario government may bring an action to recover costs for individuals or on an aggregate basis.  It supports the province’s participation in a national class action lawsuit launched by British Columbia last year against opioid manufacturers and wholesalers. The lawsuit seeks recovery of government health care costs incurred as a result of opioid-related disease, injury or illness.  The government has stated that any award from this litigation would be “invested into frontline mental health and addiction services”.

Miller Thomson’s Health Industry team will continue to monitor new developments as the province’s health transformation agenda moves forward and is available to assist.

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