Sixteen-year-old Georgia Dynes is fighting a deadly battle with anorexia nervosa and, for the past three years, has been slipping through cracks in Ontario’s healthcare system.
Georgia has been in and out of hospital over 20 times. She has tried every out-patient, in-patient, and day-treatment program, including a recent seven-week stay at a residential program at the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health in Whitby, Ont.
The Dynes family describes their experience as a revolving door with hospitals focusing on physical stability and eating, but not on mental health. “Sadly, (Georgia) was just another patient going in and out of the hospital with no real plan in place,” Kelly said.
“There wasn’t really anything in Canada that provided those two main ingredients together,” added Matt Dynes, Georgia’s dad. “It doesn’t get talked about in Canada, and there isn’t the support.”
Having no success at home, the Dynes have turned the sights on options in the United States. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) will cover costs for treatment at one clinic south of the border, but that clinic refused admission in Georgia’s case. It did not give reasons.
Since then, Georgia has been receiving treatment at a facility in Dallas, Texas, which offers a comprehensive program of care and recovery. Kelly says facility’s level of access to psychiatrists, nutritionists, doctors and nurses is unmatched in Canada.
Georgia has been there since May 3, but at a cost of $40,000 a month the Kellys fear they’ll run out of resources before Georgia’s recovery is complete. “We’ve taken out a second mortgage on our home and our next step is dipping into our retirement savings,” Kelly said
According to the Dynes, Georgia’s recovery could take several months, even a year, and the family can’t afford to wait for government support they’ve applied for.
“We are paying ourselves right now, and we hope that when OHIP is done reviewing our application, we can have some funding come forward,” Kelly said. “But we have no idea as to when.”
Kelly has been staying close by her daughter at the Ronald McDonald House in Dallas and is able to see Georgia a few times a week. She says it’s heartbreaking.
“(Georgia) wont look at you in the eye and she’s just a shell of her old self. She just spends her visits crying, saying she doesn’t want to do this anymore and she wants to go home.”
And there’s another sad reality.
“Its very disheartening when you constantly hear as Canadians all the information about mental health supports, but nobody seems to be talking about this mental health crisis.” said Matt. “It’s not our battle alone. So many kids, mostly young girls, are battling this.”
According to the Windsor, Ont.-based Bulimia Anorexia Nervosa Association (BANA), 2.7 million Canadians suffer from eating disorders.
BANA executive director Luciana Rosu-Sieza adds that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The risk is greatest for women ages 15-24, and the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the problem.
“There was about a 50 to 60 per cent increase in hospitalization for young people with eating disorders during the pandemic,” Rosu-Sieza said. “There are growing waitlists, and we do need more resources… whether its more staffing, training…or in-patient beds for eating disorders.”
The Dynes say eating disorders need to be treated with a more comprehensive approach. “We need to find some other way to help adolescents, especially in this situation that when they are going in and out of hospital, that they are getting that level of mental health support alongside stability. They have to go hand in hand,” Kelly said.
The Dynes say they have kept lines of communication with the government clear and welcome any help it can offer.
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been created to help pay for Georgia’s care in Dallas.
For her parents, they just hope their daughter can go back to living a normal teenage life. “We just want for her to resume the life she was meant to be living,” Kelly said.