January 24, 2024 (Burlington, ON) – Children’s Mental Health Ontario thanks the Ontario government for the $44.6 million investment in community-based child and youth mental health, which will help kids and families get the mental health care they need sooner and closer to home. This new funding is a leap forward to address longstanding and urgent gaps in treatment for children, youth, and families with intensive and complex mental health needs.
Tatum Wilson, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Ontario, attended today’s announcement and said, “The Ontario government’s investment in community-based child and youth mental health comes at a critical time as we see an increased demand from children and youth with intensive needs, coupled with longstanding gaps in available treatment programs and staff shortages. With the right support and continued investments, we can ensure a future where all infants, children, youth, and families get the mental health care and supports they need to thrive.”
In 2022, Ontario data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) showed that of the top 10 reasons children and youth ages 5–17 were hospitalized, mental health issues took the first, second, fourth, and tenth spots.
At last count, over 28,000 Ontario children and youth were waiting an average of nine months, and in some cases, as long as 2.5 years to access care. At the same time, the mental health of children and youth significantly deteriorated during the pandemic, especially for kids with pre-existing serious and complex mental health conditions. In some parts of the province, like Northern, rural, and remote communities, services for kids with intensive needs simply do not exist. These gaps in care and barriers to accessing it are even higher for Black, Indigenous, racialized, and other equity-deserving communities, who are known to already be at higher risk of experiencing mental health challenges.
Today’s announcement, when implemented, will enable faster access to high-quality community-based mental health care for kids and families that are closer to home. It will also free up hospital capacity to address other urgent care needs and reduce health system costs overall.
This investment is an example of the type of innovative system transformation we need to address the crisis in child and youth mental health. It is part of a historic investment by the Ontario government of $330 million in pediatric health services, including today’s announcement in community-based care.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Ontario government on our proposed plan for an investment of $140 million in new annualized funding for community child and youth mental health to stabilize, sustain, and system build so that all infants, children, youth, and families in Ontario can get the mental health care they need, when and where they need it.