On July 19, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services released its Blueprint to reform residential care services in Ontario.
While Children’s Mental Health Ontario is encouraged by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services’ commitment to enhancing safety in homes where children and youth are in care, the Government of Ontario is still moving too slowly and without increased funding, too many children and youth will still not receive the mental health treatment they so desperately need and, sadly, some may die by suicide.
Residential care refers to a range of services. Some residential settings provide intensive mental health treatment; however, increased government funding is needed to meet the growing demand for treatment. In addition, many children and youth in other residential care settings are dealing with undiagnosed mental illness which is sometimes expressed in aggressive or challenging behaviours. Many of these children and youth are also in need of mental health treatment.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario continues to call for increased investment for specialized mental health treatment centres in the communities where children and youth live and to reduce wait times for assessments and treatment; so far, these calls have been ignored by government. The Blueprint does not make concrete commitments to improvements to mental health treatment in residential settings. Further, it does not does include specific timelines or explicitly state how government will resource the Blueprint’s commitments.
Children seeking support for behavioural or mental health issues, should receive treatment within 30 days of seeking help and not wait months or, in some cases, years for a full assessment. Those in crisis should receive immediate help. They should also receive this help in the communities in which they live. This is urgently needed in northern Ontario especially for Indigenous youth.
Investing in a high-quality, high-performing mental health system is part of the solution to address and support children in residential settings. We have called for investment in a suite of intensive services to realize an effective ‘system of care’ so that children and youth with severe mental health issues can receive appropriate treatment when and where they need it.