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Children & youth with potentially life-threatening mental illness waiting over a year for treatment reveals new report by Children’s Mental Health Ontario

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Toronto, ON, May 6, 2015: A first of its kind report by Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) called 2015 Report Card: Child & Youth Mental Health released today examines community-based access to care, accountability and coordination between primary care, hospitals, community-based agencies and schools for children, youth and families affected by mental health issues within Ontario.

The report provides a system evaluation and is based on information provided to Children’s Mental Health Ontario by its 88 Children’s Mental Health Centres, serving more than 100,000 children and youth across the province. The report reveals that Ontario scores low for access to immediate care for children and youth seeking community-based counseling and therapy for potentially life-threatening mental illness. Long-term counseling and therapy is a crucial service and one of the most important and in-demand treatments for children and youth. Over six thousand children and youth, or nearly 40 per cent of those seeking mental health therapy and counseling treatment, are not receiving immediate care, waiting over a year or more. The report also shows that the number of children and youth waiting for counseling and therapy community-based treatment is expected to double to 12,000 by 2016.

When treated early, children and youth can learn to effectively manage their illness throughout the course of their lifetime. With 70 per cent of mental health issues emerging during adolescence it is especially important to make more resources available and focused on early intervention and treatment. Suicide is the second leading cause of death of youth between 10 and 24 years and the report shows that referrals for treatment in the community-based sector are on the rise by a startling 10 per cent per year.

“There are too many children waiting too long for community-based mental health services,” said Kim Moran, CEO Children’s Mental Health Ontario. “If the rate of referrals continues and Ontario continues to ignore the needs of children and families suffering from mental health issues, we will be in a crisis situation. These children and youth have potentially life-threatening mental health challenges, including depression, suicidal thoughts, addictions or aggressive behaviours towards others and thousands of them are waiting over a year for treatment. Without more resources, the amount of children waiting will double and these youth will end up in hospital emergency rooms.”

Although investments from the province of Ontario since 2011 have helped to reduce wait time pressure for brief- and short-term services, wait times for children and youth in need of long-term counselling and therapy are growing at an unmanageable rate.

Other Report Card Highlights:

  • Tele-psychiatry is reaching 2500 more children in remote areas
  • The Province and community-based agencies are implementing a lead-agency model for better accountability and coordination across sectors similar to the LHIN model in the health sector
  • While more families and children and youth are being engaged to build a system that meets their needs (50,000), investment in structures to embed youth and family engagement in the system must be made
  • School Mental Health Assist and mental health nurses in schools are improving coordination with the education sector
  • There is a lack of province-wide data making it difficult to measure outcomes. Outcome measures are important to deliver the most effective programs. Investment into planning and expertise to develop a robust outcome measurement system is needed.
  • Better coordination within the sector is needed. A high-functioning child and youth mental health system that puts children and families first requires primary care, hospitals, child and youth mental health centres and schools to all work together.

The provincial government has developed a plan to transform the delivery of children’s mental health services in Ontario through its Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. While CMHO and its agencies are working with the province to support the creation of a more responsive and integrated system for children and youth as part of the province’s strategy, more is needed.

“New investments are needed to ensure direct services keep up with the pace of demand in Ontario,” said Moran. “A new investment of $30 million is required to bring wait times down and to reach thousands more children. It has been nearly a decade since the community-based sector has received an increase in base-funding.”

CHMO also recommends that a provincial body be created and funded that is made up of partners from health, education and the community sector to clarify roles and responsibilities across sectors and improve coordination and consistency. As with lead agencies this body should be housed in the community sector.

About Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO):

CMHO draws from the collective voice of our members, to identify and develop powerful solutions for the most important policy issues affecting the mental health of children, youth and their families across Ontario. Together our over 85 members form the backbone of Ontario’s community-based child and youth mental health sector. CMHO members provide mental health treatment and services for children, youth and their families.

For further information, please contact:

Christine Pelletier at 416-921-2109 ext 130