As we usher in a new year many of us have or are setting personal and financial goals for the next 12 months. The Province of Ontario is also planning a new budget and looking at its priorities. I understand money is tight for many of us and for the Government of Ontario. In addition to being the CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, I am also a Chartered Professional Accountant, so I understand the value of wise investments.
Every month there is another headline about youth suicide. On New Year’s Day, The Star reported the loss of Alex Hurst, a youth in Toronto. In Woodstock, at least 6 youth died by suicide last year. In First Nations communities, tragedy after tragedy continues to happen. We know that kids wait for treatment and often that is why they die. CMHO has reported on long wait times throughout Ontario, some up to 18 months.
Untreated mental illness is not just heartbreaking but it is an important financial issue that must be immediately addressed in the upcoming provincial budget. Today I presented to the Ministry of Finance to advise them that can kids can’t wait any longer. The continued underfunding of children’s mental health is having a devastating impact on children, youth and families in our province.
I also advised that it actually makes good financial sense for Ontario to increase investment in children’s mental health. A 60% increase in kids going to hospital for mental health emergencies over the past decade costs the government $145M a year. We know that the reason for this dramatic rise in emergency room visits is because the Ontario government has cut spending for child and youth mental health treatment in the community over the last 25 years by almost 50%. Those figures are undeniable, unconscionable and unacceptable. And the consequences are that youth continue to die by suicide. It’s a crisis.
Today’s presentation is the first in a series of planned consultations and engagement by CMHO, its members and families across the province about making children’s mental health a priority in the upcoming Ontario Budget 2017.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario urges the Ontario government to take the following steps and investments to improve mental health outcomes for our province’s children and youth:
- Ensure that no child or youth waits more than 30 days for treatment
- Expand specialized treatment centres for kids with the most severe mental health issues and
- Retain highly skilled staff to care for our most vulnerable children
We are seeing youth becoming stronger leaders and advocating for change. Parents are also stepping forward to be stronger leaders and advocates. The mother of the youth who died by suicide in Toronto was on the front page of The Star; Nicole German’s daughter died in Toronto 1 year ago. She now writes columns in the Huffington Post. Parents want the government to act. We recently held a social media conversation and more than half a million people participated.
This is a critical time and we call on you to please join us in demanding that kids get the right kind of care at the right time in the right place. We will be sharing our official submission on our website on January 20th.
Please stand with us.