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.
Nancy Kodis and her daughter, Darien, joined Susan Sweetman, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Services for Hastings and Prince Edward.
Teenager, Darien, took courage to speak to government officials in Belleville to share her perspective.
Here is an excerpt from the statement she read.
I had been struggling for a long time before I actually decided that I wanted to get help. It’s already hard enough, but then you finally get the courage to step up and go forward to get yourself the help you need to succeed in life, and then you find out that you have to wait.
I really like to get good grades, I really like to do all that stuff, but going to school was just so hard because I couldn’t even deal with my own battles. Sometimes it’s just so hard in that waiting period. You feel like you’ve tried so hard to even get where you’re at, just to be let down almost in a way of “Oh no, now I’m just like another person who has to wait,” where it’s almost something that’s kind of urgent, because you’re losing your relationships with your friends.
Especially when you’re a teenager, I feel like experimenting is a huge thing. I find that a lot of people turn to drugs just to aid what they’re missing.
As a parent waiting, it’s really frustrating to watch your child going through that. Mentally, you’re afraid of them committing suicide -- Nancy Kodis
Susan Sweetman, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Services for Hastings and Prince Edward also delivered a powerful statement.
Here is what she said:
I want to start today by thanking you for inviting us to speak today about the needs for investment in services that serve children and youth in our province. We’re talking about kids: your kids, your friends’ and families’ kids, kids in your neighbourhood and kids that you’re responsible for as MPPs in this province. Children’s Mental Health Services is a lead agency for Hastings, Northumberland and Prince Edward counties. We oversee the planning and delivery of core mental health and addiction services for children, youth and their families through five transfer payment agencies across our service area.
Our current state right now is that Ontario child and youth mental health services provide mental health services to more than 120,000 kids and their families every year, but across the province thousands of them are waiting up to 18 months for treatment they need.
Seventy per cent of mental health and substance use problems begin in childhood, and your best return on investment is investing in services for children, particularly when effective treatment can change the trajectory of their lives.
Strategic investments of an additional $150 million a year will enable us to hire and train another 1,400 front-line professionals, to ensure that families have access to counselling and psychotherapy within 30 days. It will also expand the specialized youth mental health and addiction services to ensure that children and youth get the treatment they need. And it will allow us to scale a 24/7 crisis support service to ensure that kids and families don’t have to go to the emergency department when they’re in crisis.
There are some additional ideas and solutions around investments that we have from the sector, which we think are really important. Some of the additional things are:
- improve transitions for youth by increasing the age that they can be served from 18 to 25;
- introduce a common brand of child and youth mental health centres across the province for easy identification for parents and those in the community;
- simplify access by leveraging existing resources and work already being done with the emerging Ontario health teams, which we are part of;
- scale digital solutions that include the ideas of digital counselling and things like that, which help when there is geography and different constraints where there’s not service right in the community; and
- develop and implement a quality and data strategy, and develop and implement an equity strategy for funding—so this goes back to the funding formula—to ensure accessibility for all.
Our kids are our future, and our families can’t afford to wait any longer.