Written By Jocelyne Bédard, President of the Board of Directors for Child and Family Center. As presented to the Standing Committee for Economic and Financial Affairs in January 2018
Recently, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and some of its nearly 100 mental health service providers met with Ontario MPPs and the Ontario Finance Minister as the Government of Ontario decides what programs and services it will prioritize in 2018. Kids mental health experts and youth mental health advocates have been sharing their experiences and alerting politicians that there is a children's mental health crisis. Read what they shared, along with solutions to the crisis from Children's Mental Health Ontario.
The Child and Family Center (CFC) is an incredible organization of committed mental health professionals. Each and every day, we see children and youth from across our region, which spans from Greater Sudbury to Manitoulin Island and as far north as Chapleau.
I am deeply appreciative of your attention this morning. The stigma of mental health is slowly fading away, but we have so much road to cover, particularly when it comes to our children and youth. An astonishing 25% of kids report having missed school because of anxiety, with more than one third of working parents needing to take time off from work to care for their children. This generates an incredible cost on our local economies.
Here at CFC, we do our best to meet all of our community needs, but some 40% of kids trying to access the system say that they can’t get the treatment they need. The consequences can be fatal as failure to access services in a timely manner often results in suicide. A cost far too high!
Unfortunately, over the past 25 years, government spending for treatment in the community has been reduced by more than 50%. We are working with a fraction of the resources we had a couple of decades ago; add to this a 67% increase in kids seeking treatment in hospitals and what you get is an overcrowding challenge at a cost of more than 190 million dollars a year!
These figures are undeniable, unconscionable and unacceptable. We have a crisis on our hands which can no longer be ignored.
We know that about one in five kids will experience a mental health problem before the age of 18. In our region, there are about 40,000 kids in that age range. This means that our system needs to be equipped to provide services for nearly 8,000 struggling kids. As you can imagine, this is a monumental task for an agency with barely forty clinicians! We simply cannot do the system justice with our current resources.
Here is what we know about mental health and primary care in our region:
- We have the highest rates of emergency visits in Northeastern Ontario. Fully one third higher than the provincial average.
- Suicide rates have increased by 89% in recent years. In Northeastern Ontario, we are losing nearly 14 kids in every 100,000 youth, which is more than double the provincial average and equates to nearly 6 deaths.
- The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has stated that its aim is to decrease health care costs by investing in home and community care; they’ve also made some strong and targeted investments in adult mental health. While we applaud these measures, we implore you not to lose sight of our kids. They simply haven’t benefitted from these investments.
Minister Hoskins’ recent investment in the Youth Wellness Hubs is a good start. Co-location of services is a good idea, but it does not result in a net increase in treatment services. Kids need a more comprehensive solution to ensure that there is high quality treatment available to them and that it be close to their homes. Our children are our most precious resources, getting them onto the right path is the best investment that we can make in our community’s future prosperity.
Show your support for child and youth mental health care. Visit www.kidsmentalhealthcantwait.ca to send Premier Wynne a letter telling her that you think child and youth mental health needs funding now. It will take less than a minute of your time.