In the coming weeks leading up to the release of the 2020 provincial budget by the Government of Ontario, Children's Mental Health Ontario's members, which provide the majority of publicly-provided child and youth mental health care in the province, and youth and family mental health advocates will be attending public meetings with Ontario government leaders and MPPs to urge them to increase investments in community child and youth mental health care.
They will remind government decision-makers that the length of time and the number of young people and their families waiting for Ontario publicly-provided child and youth mental health care is at an all-time high.
And, they will share their front-line and lived experiences about families that are in crisis and struggling at home, work and school because they are not able to access the mental health care they need.
On Jan. 21, in Thunder Bay, Diane Walker, CEO of Children’s Centre Thunder Bay and Terri Lynn Fucile, the Chair Parent Council of the Centre delivered three important messages to government leaders:
- Keep your promises real
- Reduce wait times for community child and youth mental healthcare
- Provide treatment closer to family’s homes
Here is a snapshot of Terri Lynn Fucile and Diane Walker’s statement.
Message # 1 from Diane Walker – Keep your promises
“Three years ago, the Federal Government committed to investing $1.9 billion in expanding community mental health and addictions services with $265 million targeted to reduce wait times in Child and Youth Mental health. Two years ago, political parties campaigned on addressing mental health and addictions – you knocked on our doors and we told you that mental health was a super important issue for adults and for children. Upon election, this government committed to match federal funds, dollar for dollar, and yet nothing has flowed! The children of this province are owed $67 million from last year, and $75 million this year.”
Message #2 from Terri Lynn Fucile - Reduce wait times for community child and youth mental health services
“Long wait times for children’s mental health services are simply unacceptable. These are precious developmental years and time is of the essence. When a parent is told that their child is going on a wait list, what that parent hears is the child’s mental health issues are being left untreated. What it means is that my child will get sicker. Untreated mental health issues progress until the whole family is in crisis. This happens to many families and people I know and care about.”
Here is what Diane had to say about wait lists and wait times for mental health services by kids.
“At Children’s Centre Thunder Bay - as of January 14 - we have 539 kids on our wait list. Of those 539, there are 151 waiting for counselling, for treatment, for help. Those 151 children, some as young as 2, wait for an average of 155 days or half a year. Some wait for almost a year, they are stuck in the waitlist hallway so to speak. And, similar to the emergency department we triage so the critically ill get service first.
“But for those 151 children who are just ill, they are now on the verge of becoming critically ill, as they are expelled from school by adults who are afraid of them; placed in child welfare because families can’t handle them and hospitalized in order to keep them safe from suicide – and now they qualify for services.”
Because of chronic underfunding, the only way to reduce wait times is to reduce the amount of service a child and family would receive – it is kind of like getting half the chemo, or half the insulin if you are a diabetic. We need to invest in the health of children by supporting the hiring of mental health professionals to work in Child and Youth Mental Health Centres. For every one staff hired we can take 30 kids off the waitlist and reduce the wait times.”
Message #3 from Terri Lynn Fucile - Serve our kids closer to home
“Can you imagine hearing that your child has complex needs and being told that the services that are required for their wellbeing isn’t available in your community? Can you imagine telling your child, who is already frightened and overwhelmed, that they are going to live somewhere else and you can’t go with them?
This is abhorrent. And yet, it is the reality for many families from the north whose children have been sent away for live in treatment centers because the resources aren’t available in the north. The current provincial system for dealing with children with complex needs is inequitable. We would not ask a child from Kingston or Ottawa or Hamilton to move to Thunder Bay for long term mental health treatment – when investments would support it being provided locally. Why do we ask the reverse?”
You can help.
You can help us end the wait for mental health care for families in Ontario. Please join us and Terri Lynn and Diane. Tell the Ontario Government to invest in Ontario Child and Youth Mental Health Centres