The solution to having better children’s mental health care is simple. When children or youth first start to show signs of mental health issues they need to get the right help from experienced mental health professionals. Some kids will need just a few therapy sessions to set them on the right course; some with more serious issues will need more extensive treatment plans.
But acting quickly makes good sense. If children are forced to wait, they can become more seriously ill, they miss school, there is enormous strain on families and they end up in hospital. That is what is happening now – there has been a 50% increase in kids in hospital with mental health issues, according to the Auditor General’s annual report.
The Auditor General report acknowledged that too many kids are in hospital because of mental health issues. There are two ways to solve that problem:
- Have experienced mental health professionals available at flexible times to provide intensive therapy when kids need it. By doing this, we can successfully divert many kids from going to hospitals.
- Ensure that if kids end up in hospital that they can leave quickly and immediately access intensive treatment.
In Ottawa, a program called Bridges was developed where kids in the in-patient units of hospitals can go home and attend an intensive care program in their community staffed with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses providing treatment. Most kids, within 17 weeks, have successfully left the program, and while they may need some ongoing support, they and their family have averted crisis.
To reduce the number of kids in hospital, the solution has already been developed: fund intensive care programs in communities. With funding for therapy and other treatment to occur in the community, fewer children and youth will need to use hospitals. Kids will become healthier faster, families get the support they need and the cost is far less than providing care in community than in hospital.
It makes sense for children, youth and families, and it makes sense for taxpayers because funding therapy in children’s mental health centres is far less expensive that admitting kids to hospitals.