Toronto, ON, June 26, 2020:
Ontarians are not getting the care they need when they are in a mental health crisis. Since April, four racialized Ontarians – D’Andre Campbell, Caleb Njoko, Regis Korchinski-Paquet and now Ejaz Choudry – who were experiencing a mental health crisis had tragic outcomes instead of receiving the care and treatment they needed and their families wanted. How many more vulnerable people in crisis must we lose before we see change?
Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) and our mental health and addictions partners have been advocating for years for new and increased measures to improve crisis care for adults, youth and children– and just as important, for investments to prevent people from getting to the point of needing crisis care.
We join our partners in calling for a new direction. Police should not be the first responders when people are in mental health crisis in the community. Instead, we need to help people with experts who support those in crisis and their families daily. If a youth is in a mental health crisis and family and friends call we want to ensure that highly trained mental health professionals can de-escalate the situation and navigate that person to care.
We also need to invest and adequately fund community mental health and addiction services, as well as invest in the social determinants of health. People experiencing mental health crisis need health care.
We have models of community crisis response in child and youth mental health that we can scale and adapt across the province as part of a provincial, lifespan strategy. CMHO’s policy and budget recommendations to the provincial government over the past two years have identified the need for $27 million in investments to scale 24/7 crisis supports for children, youth and families who can be better and more appropriately served in the community.
In addition to crisis services, we need investments to expand early interventions in child and youth mental health treatment, including programs co-developed to be culturally appropriate and accessible for Black, Indigenous and racialized families. We know that racialized peoples with mental health needs face significant barriers to mental health care and that too often their first contact with the system occurs during a crisis. It’s critical that infants, children, youth and families are able to access the mental health treatment they need before reaching a crisis point.
For too long, the health care system has relied on police to respond to mental health crises in the community. People with mental illness and their families deserve better. Urgent action to prevent further loss of life and increased investments in mental health care from the provincial government is needed.