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Pharmacists like Cathy Puffer at Remedy'sRx have stepped in to help. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Ford government fails people on disability in move from BI to ODSP; pharmacists step in

in Community/Social Issues by
Pharmacists like Cathy Puffer at Remedy'sRx have stepped in to help. Photo: Sienna Frost.

A local social worker is sounding the alarm over the transition for people who were collecting basic income and then returned to ODSP, which left some people on disability with a gap in medication coverage.

Karla Forgaard-Pullen, a social worker based in Lindsay, says that some of the basic income recipients who were previously on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) are on a backlogged list waiting for their return to the program to be green lit. The basic income program issued its last payment in March.

“But what also ended March 31 is health and dental coverage,” says Forgaard-Pullen. “This means that there are medically disabled people living without access to their required prescription medications until, and if, they receive approval of their status as ODSP recipients.”

She says she knows that at least some of these cases the medications prescribed “are critical to their lives.”

Cathy Puffer, owner and pharmacist at Remedy’sRx confirms this.

“There are about 40 patients here who were affected – and that’s just our pharmacy.” The Advocate has verified that at least one other pharmacy — Queen’s Square Pharmacy — has stepped in to do the same thing.

“We’ve been covering them during this gap time, and the first week was the worst,” says Puffer.

“It was a horrible transition by the government,” Puffer tells the Advocate. She says in the first week the pharmacy had to call a special number and they were only allowed to give five names at a time. Sometimes the pharmacists were on hold for an hour to confirm whether each person would go back to having coverage if successfully reinstated to ODSP – something that was supposed to happen automatically, with no questions asked.

Puffer says now a website has been set up and the pharmacy can independently confirm the needed information.

“I still have someone waiting to know. She has her medication and is okay but it’s not a good situation. For several of my patients it has really increased their anxiety levels. Their mental health has taken a hit,” says Puffer.

Forgaard-Pullen says that in one specific incident, the person was told by an ODSP worker to ask the pharmacy to cover them until the file could be dealt with, passing the poor transition off onto pharmacies.

The Province has known for many months that basic income recipients who were previously on ODSP would be returning to that program, where health and dental coverage should be automatic.

“It is unreasonable to off-load, even temporarily, the cost of supplying approved life sustaining medications to retail pharmacies,” says Forgaard-Pullen.

“That requires pharmacists, and their companies, to effectively extend credit. Even though generic medications are used in every possible instance, some of these are very expensive and it is not the place of business to cover governmental responsibilities.”

The social worker says the anxiety “caused by an unstable access to medications such as insulin, anti-psychotics and heart medications is unconscionable.”

“If the ODSP office does not complete approvals for all the back logged files by end of month, what will these people do for rent and utilities? Will landlords and Hydro One ‘extend’ coverage until the workers can finish these files?” Forgaard-Pullen asks.

Basic income was cancelled by the PC government, despite a promise on the campaign trail to let the pilot complete its three years of data gathering. More than 1,800 people in Lindsay were able to access at least some level of basic income to bring them closer to the poverty line.

After reviewing the recent Ontario budget Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner castigated the PCs for their priorities.

“If you look through this budget, it mentions booze and gambling 63 times, it mentions climate change 15 times, and it mentions poverty zero times — it says a lot about the priorities of the Ford government,” he said.

The budget also contained a provision to make it next to impossible to sue the government for cases of misfeasance and negligence. Interestingly, this comes as a class action lawsuit is now underway against the government, with four people from Lindsay leading the charge.

The lawsuit alleges the government breached its contract with the pilot project’s 4,000 participants in the communities of Lindsay, Thunder Bay and Hamilton. The Toronto law firm, Cavalluzzo LLP, has recently taken on the class action.

Roderick Benns is the publisher of The Lindsay Advocate. He is the author of 'Basic Income: How a Canadian Movement Could Change the World,' and is also on the communications team of the Basic Income Canada Network. An award-winning author and journalist who grew up in Lindsay, Roderick has interviewed former Prime Ministers of Canada, Senators, and Mayors across Canada. He also wrote and published a series of books for youth about Canada's Prime Ministers as teens.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. It’s insane I’m reading on a small site and I’m happy to do that of course but big media should be all over this story… It sucks because people on ODSP tend to not be heard as much mostly a lot them can’t even afford to leave their homes let alone get somewhere do to their limitations.

    You look at Autism and it was I think 100k? Maybe less Kids effected and yet there is 5 times that on ODSP and their cries are muffled out instantly no matter what next news item comes out.

  2. It is deplorable but every word is true, I deal with 1 young lady that waited 3 weeks for her worker to call her back and even make an appointment or do an over the phone intake to send the paperwork out, finally a trip to the local MPP explaining this was NOT acceptable and that the lady in question is medically disabled from birth got some action, within the day we had a phone call and an appointment not with her worker but atleast a worker to take her “fast tracked” re in-statement which was on the 3rd, and yet no letter that she has been approved has been issued over 2 weeks later nor even a phone call made to say she is covered medically!

  3. These people should use the juicy corporate tax breaks and business goodies to afford their basic income and other needs.

    Doug Ford just gave businesses 4 billion, why can’t ODSP use that money rather then leech of the taxpayers.

    • because to act as a corporation is to afford the business degree language and neo arcaic befuddlement understanding and supplication to of the business caste arcania which is the purview of the actual ruling elite

    • “Leech off the taxpayers”???? Wow. Nice wording. We do not “Leech” off of anyone. Some of us work. Whether it’s full or part time, some do pay taxes, just like you do! Pls watch your wording when speaking about people on disability. We did NOT ask to get sick. I hope you stay healthy and never have to experience the humiliation of listen to people like you, who call us nasty names and think we are lower that dirt…

  4. I think we should give them time as some extreme things had to be done at the start of it. As time passes by, everything will once again be normal so we all should be patient.

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