Written By: Robin Tiplady, Board Member at the Sudbury Child and Family Centre

As presented to the 2018 Ontario Budget Committee 


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. 


In my three plus years as a director on the board, I have developed a deep appreciation of the great work that the Centre does in our community.  At Child and Family Center (CFC), we are always seeking new ways to improve our service delivery without significant increases in our funding. Keep in mind that we are responsible for providing services across an area that is more than 15x the size of the GTA, that must be responsive to our Francophone population as well as the cultural needs of our indigenous peoples.

On an annual basis we provide services to approximately 2,200-2,400 clients. This past year saw a 35% increase in youth requiring crisis services. That’s an additional 63 young people who need intensive services which includes counselling and therapy. This is the group of service users who are at their most vulnerable. Our Brief Service, or MindSpace, has seen an additional 650 clients over last year’s total.  This is more than triple (327% increase) last year’s participation in this program.

This increase in volume has resulted in additional stress on the organization since we’ve become limited in the amount of time that can be devoted to clients.  The tripling of demand on our brief services program has forced us to re-direct staff and subsequently has led to wait time for intensive services.  We simply do not have the capacity to manage all the services required of us.

It is imperative that we don’t take our eye off the ball.  We must remain diligent in supporting our children and youth; we can’t simply accept that our youth suicide rate is double that of other parts of the province and I hope that you can appreciate the urgency under which we must improve services.  With 1 out of every 5 kids experiencing a mental health problem, we desperately need to build a better and more responsive system that can meet the needs of 8,000 kids across our service area. If we are to achieve this, our agency would need to see a 30% increase in our funding to the tune of just over 2 million dollars. 

Compounding the problem in Northeastern Ontario is the lack of residential treatment beds; we have to send our kids to Southern Ontario for treatment.  This only serves to add more stress on the families who are already dealing with incredibly stressful situations. Added to this is our inability to keep qualified staff because of better paying positions elsewhere like hospitals and schools.

We firmly believe that improvements to home and community mental health services will lead to a decrease in emergency department visits and contribute to the reduction of overcrowding.  A system that works for children, youth and their families will give these kids the opportunity they need to grow-up and lead healthy and productive lives.

 

If we choose not to invest in our kids, we will continue to have negative outcomes: 

  • Kids will continue to be challenged to fit in,
  • Kids will continue to struggle with anxiety and depression,
  • Kids will continue to take their lives

 

This is not a future that any of us want, especially when it can be avoided.

The time for change is now.  For the children, youth and families dealing with mental health challenges, the answer to a better system is clear.  More funding for programs and services is the only way we will save lives and reduce the burden on our health care system. 

We thank you for your time today; we hope that we have been able to impress upon you that every child and youth deserves access to the right service, at the right time in the right place. We need your help to make this happen.

 


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.