Toronto, ON, April 27, 2017 –Children’s mental health providers, parents and youth affected by mental illness are frustrated that the Wynne government has not made children’s mental health a priority. Despite urging by Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) and advocates to increase funding to improve services for the 120,000 children and youth currently receiving treatment in Ontario for mental illness with an immediate investment of $118 million, once again the province of Ontario has not provided adequate funding to help the increasing demand for services and shocking wait times of up to a year and a half to access child and youth mental health services.
“The lack of investment today for community-based treatment is extremely frustrating to the 12,000 children and youth and their families desperately seeking long-term or intensive mental health therapy at community-based children and youth mental health centres, said Kim Moran, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario. Premier Wynne has the ability to ensure that all children and youth in the province have access to appropriate mental health treatment within 30 days or less. We also estimate that $118M annual investment in the community kids mental health sector will allow Ontarians to save $1 billion in hospitals costs.”
Mental health advocate, Nicole German, describes the anguish of waiting for treatment of her daughter Maddie German Coulter, “It wasn’t until she tried to take her life that we were finally provided with the care she needed all along. But even then it was only for a short time. As soon as she started to feel better, she was discharged from treatment in hospital, without support to ensure that all progress she made wasn’t lost.”
And, despite the step forward by the Ontario government in signing the Health Accord, which includes direct investment towards mental health services over and above existing programs, and statements by the Ministry of Child and Youth Services that children’s mental health is a priority, there was no indication in the Provincial Budget that any of these funds will be earmarked to support children and youth with mental illness gain access to support services in the communities where they live. One other step forward is that the government announced universal pharmacare for children and youth up to age 24.
As outlined in the CMHO 2017 pre-budget submission, accredited community-based child and youth mental health centres need immediate and strategic investments to significantly shorten wait times for services, build capacity to meet growing demand for services, recruit and retain qualified staff and clinical experts, and introduce quality improvement initiatives. This will result in: a significant reduction in emergency and hospital admissions; timely access to treatment at child and youth mental health centres, and improved service quality. Most importantly, this will improve outcomes for children and youth and will save lives.
“We know that emergency department visits are dramatically rising as services in the community are eroding,” said Moran. “While inflation has grown by 55% in the last 25 years, the number of dollars spent for child and youth mental health treatment in the community has barely changed since 1992. Kids continue to wait for services, and kids continue to die by suicide. We cannot accept this.”
Currently, demand for community-based children and youth mental health services increases, on average, by 10% annually. Some families must even seek care in specialized U.S. treatment centres – at great cost to families and the province. Others are turning in crisis to hospital emergency rooms. The current system is failing to provide children and youth with the right kind of care at the right time in the right place.
Because kids are waiting to get the treatment they need in the community, hospital and emergency department admissions for children and youth with mental health disorders have increased dramatically. And, for most kids, hospitals are not the right place to receive long-term mental health treatment. Since 2006-07, there has been a 60% increase in hospitalizations and 54% increase in emergency department visits for children and youth seeking treatment for mental health issues in Ontario. In fact, 38% of children and youth who seek treatment in hospital emergency departments will do so three or more times. This indicates that the current system is not working. And it costs the government $145M each year.
As many as one in five children and youth in Ontario will experience some form of mental health problem. But five out of six of those kids will not receive the treatment they need. The case for investment in children’s mental health has been demonstrated very clearly as the lifetime savings for each youth is estimated by the Mental Health Commission of Canada as $140,000 per child. When kids are treated on time, with the right resources, they can grow up mentally healthy.
Frustration is mounting with parents, teachers, children and youth and community-based children’s mental health service providers about the lack of funding increases included in provincial budgets, year after year, to help these children and youth. Families and mental health care experts have met with MPPs, held twitter chats, are mobilizing and even organizing a march on May 6 to Queen’s Park to express their deep concerns about the government’s lack of attention on child and youth mental health.
However, CMHO is still hopeful that the province will, in the coming weeks, commit to directing a substantial portion of the earmarked funds from the Federal Health Accord towards community-based mental health services for children and youth. “It makes fiscal, social and medical sense to invest in children and youth community mental health services and the Federal government has acknowledged and provided funds for this,” said Moran. “The time to invest is now. The province of Ontario must make children’s mental health a priority and help the more than 100,000 families facing the challenges of mental illness daily.”
Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) works to identify and develop solutions to important policy issues affecting the child and youth mental health sector. We represent close to 100 accredited children’s mental health agencies that provide treatment and support to infants, children, youth and families. This includes targeted prevention, early intervention, short- and long-term counselling and therapy, and intensive services for those with complex and/or persistent mental health issues.