Ontario families say wait for treatment for youth with mental health issues unacceptable
TORONTO — Recent studies suggest children and teens with serious mental health issues in Ontario have to wait more than a year for treatment from community-based centres.
An alleged knife attack by a student at Greater Toronto Area high school last week highlighted the problem.
There’s a gaping hole in treatment to prevent kids from reaching a crisis point, according to Children’s Mental Health Ontario.
Families can get a couple of quick counselling sessions through community-based centres, but the needs of young people who require more help than that are not being addressed.
“For those kids, like mine, who really need more counseling and therapy there’s wait times still of more than a year,” said Kim Moran, president and CEO of CMHO.
While on a wait list, her daughter ended up in hospital for six months.
“It was very frustrating to think if we’d gotten the right help at the right time we would have avoided all of these things,” said Moran.
A study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that emergency department visits by children and youth for mental health issues went up 45 per cent over seven years, and inpatient hospitalization increased by more than one third (37 per cent).
“That’s particularly interesting because inpatient admissions for other health reasons had actually decreased over that same time frame,” said Kathleen Morris, vice president of research and analysis at CIHI, adding that the real problem is the lack of treatment.
“You really need the right care at the right time.”
CMHO showed the government their analysis of how prevention would save hundreds of millions in hospital costs, but still didn’t get a penny of new funding in last week’s provincial budget.
There are also wait lists for residential programs, which could be an alternative to staying in hospital.
Chris Coulter finds it hard to describe the pain of losing his daughter Maddie.
“What the last year has represented, hey I have my good days and I have my bad days,” he said.
After struggling with depression for months, Maddie took her own life last April. She was 14 years old.
“She was everything you’d probably ever want in a girl,” said Coulter.
Maddie’s family had tried everything, including counseling, then hospital stays. But after she was discharged, she was put on a wait list for residential treatment.
There was no room, so they triaged who needed it most, and Coulter’s daughter never quite made it.
“The challenge was they just didn’t have the spots available for her,” he said, adding that Maddie was on that wait list for four months.
Coulter wants to make sure people understand how critical the issue is.
“It’s so fragile in how quickly something like what happened to Madeline happened and you can’t pull that back,” he said.
“That decision is done.”
Click here to donate to The Maddie Project, which is a community effort in support of youth struggling with depression and other mental health related concerns.
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