The Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) Mental Health and Addictions Scorecard and Evaluation Framework report released today shows a 25 per cent increase in visits to physicians by children and youth for mental health and addictions related care. As part of the report, partial wait-time data for select child and youth mental health services in community-based agencies revealed by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services (MCYS) shows wait times of more than three months for intensive treatment services. "Wait times for Ontario children and youth with mental illness are still too long and are putting those children who are waiting at risk of serious harm, says Kim Moran, CEO of Children's Mental Health Ontario. CMHO and child and youth mental health and addictions experts recommend all children, should have access to care within 30 days of seeking help. Those in crisis or in need of intensive treatment should receive immediate care.
MCYS did not release all data and provided 'on average' information related to access and wait time in the community-based child and youth mental health sector, but did state that some children and youth in need of intensive care wait an average of 98 days. CMHO data shows that in their nearly 100 Ontario agencies servicing children with mental health and addictions issues there are wait lists of more than 12,000 kids and depending on where you live in the province, access is not available for up to a year and a half or longer for intensive care and long-term therapy.
The report clearly illustrates the effectiveness of community-based child and youth care, showing in the year following discharge, children 0 to 18 had significantly lower rates of emergency department visits and hospitalizations compared to before and when they were receiving community based mental health services.
The ICES report also revealed alarming inequalities in access to child and youth mental health care depending on income levels and geography of families seeking support for children and youth with mental illness. It also showed suicide rates increase depending on where a child or youth lives. Children and youth from the lowest income neighbourhoods and those who live in Northern Ontario are at the highest risk of suicide.
This is unacceptable. “While MCYS's Moving on Mental Health has made some important improvements, there is much more to be done,” says Moran. “I’m not surprised by the inequalities, long wait times and increase in demand for services, but improvements to the system of care can be made through innovative programming, access to MCYS data in order to make better and informed decisions, increased integration throughout the system and new investments in the community-based children's mental health and addictions sector to keep up with the increasing demand and reduce wait times. It is time to make children's mental health care in Ontario a priority.”