Today’s investment by the Government of Ontario of $31 million towards child and youth mental health services is welcome news for Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the families that their nearly 100 child and youth mental health centres across Ontario serve.
“We are pleased that the Government of Ontario is recognizing that the child and youth mental health sector is overflowing with demand for services to address the pre-pandemic wait list and post-pandemic mental health care crisis,” said Kimberly Moran, CEO Children’s Mental Health Ontario who spoke at the virtual announcement. “Today’s commitment to increase funding of community mental health services will help address part of the continued and expanding demand by families seeking moderate to complex mental health and addiction treatment and services, as well as help take pressure of our hospitals.”
We know that Ontario’s children and youth have been deeply affected by the pandemic. Many families are feeling the impacts of increased anxiety and stress. For some, these feelings have progressed into more serious mental health challenges that are translating into higher demand at our community child and youth mental health centres, and increased hospital visits and admissions at our pediatric hospitals. Our kids are not alright. Even more concerning is the impact of the pandemic on already marginalized youth, including those from low-income, northern and remote communities who reported even worse declines in their mental health.
“The impact on kids of ongoing isolation and school interruptions combined with an already stretched and under-staffed mental health care sector have created huge gaps in families easily accessing and navigating child and youth mental health care in Ontario,” adds Moran. “A generation of children are at risk.”
Barriers to accessing care are even higher for Black, Indigenous, racialized and marginalized youth. Youth consistently tell us they want to choose who their counsellors are and they want more diversity of mental health professionals to match their identities.
As Ontario focuses on a COVID-19 recovery, we must include children’s mental health, equity and well-being as a healthcare, education and economic priority. CMHO and its child and youth mental health care and addiction service providers are eager to work with the Government of Ontario and other stakeholders on Ontario’s Roadmap to Wellness with a goal of improving care, addressing inequities, simplifying access to treatment and to reducing the wait for families to receive the mental health care they need for their own recoveries.