March 1, 2016 7:25 pm

Province has few answers regarding 1-year wait list for youth with mental health issues

The minister responsible for the issue has few answers with regard to the one-year wait list for youth with mental health issues. In contrast, critics are well aware of the situation. Christina Stevens reports.

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TORONTO — More than 6,500 children and teens with significant mental health issues are waiting upwards of one year for appropriate help according to a leading organization.

“When my daughter was 11 she said to us that she was sad,” said Kim Moran, adding that her daughter tried to take her own life while on a wait list.

“It seemed so unbelievably challenging to get help.”


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That was five years ago, and Moran, who has since become President and CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, said little has changed.

“It can be very quick,” said Tracy MacCharles, Minister of Children and Youth Services, when asked how long children and teens have to wait to get help.

Yet CMHO found while improvements mean youth can get a couple of counseling appointments short term, the one-year wait list for longer term help for those with serious mental health issues remains.

READ MORE: Ontario families say wait for treatment for youth with mental health issues unacceptable

When asked if she was discounting the study, MacCharles responded she would like to see the study. But she has seen it before.

CMHO outlined its concerns during pre-budget submissions, in which they pleaded for an increased investment in youth mental health services.

That was pointed out to MacCharles.

“I received a lot of pre-budget submissions and I am completely open to any and all good ideas,” she said in response.

She declined to stop and review the study on Tuesday,  with her assistant explaining, “We’ve got to go.”

The NDP Health Critic said she is very familiar with the study and the concerns over wait times.

“I hear about it all the time,” said France Gélinas.

“You are talking over a year wait time, people that are in distress, people that are acutely mentally ill. This is unacceptable.”

As for wait times specifically to see a psychiatrist specializing in children and youth, the Ministry of Health doesn’t track it.

“I’ll certainly look into that specific issue,” said Health Minister Eric Hoskins.

Hoping the government improves access to help is Chris Coulter. His daughter Maddie was just 14 when she took her own life last April.

The family is trying to increase awareness through The Maddie Project.

Coulter said it is time to lift the stigma and families need to get their kids talking.

“Don’t just accept fine as an answer for ‘How was your day?’ expand upon it,” Coulter said.

“Get them to start talking more and more.”

© 2016 Shaw Media

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