New CMHO report points to long wait times for mental health support for children and youth
A new report from Children’s Mental Health Ontario shows that children are waiting as long as two years for counselling and treatment for mental illness.
The report – Kids Can’t Wait: 2020 Report On Wait Lists And Wait Times For Child And Youth Mental Health Care In Ontario – points to a number of gaps in services. It is harder to find help in rural, remote, and northern parts of Ontario, and a young person’s age, cultural or linguistic background can also be barriers to getting the support required.
Although CMHO singles out wait times as a major flaw in Ontario’s current mental health care landscape, they also point to a less visible issue: service gaps. When mental health care services aren’t available to all in a particular area, wait times for that service don’t exist.
Children can’t wait for programs that are not even offered
The regions reported as having the longest wait times for counselling and therapy were Peel (566 days), Windsor (490 days), and London (461 days), with the longest wait times for intensive treatments in Peel (737 days), Hamilton (710 days), Toronto (684 days), and Algoma (632 days).
Report makes recommendations for change
The report suggests possible ways forward for mental health services, highlighting a need for more mental health care staff, inter-professional teams, culturally and linguistically appropriate support for people from a range of backgrounds, and an increase in specialized services in all parts of Ontario, not just high-population urban centres.
Despite the problems highlighted by Kids Can’t Wait, CMHO points to a number of examples of how mental health care service providers work around the gaps in the system and attempt to reduce wait times. These include group care, youth hubs, walk-in and rapid access clinics. Service providers and mental health groups help to support children and youth in crisis through these alternative forms of service delivery. But in a mental health care system in need of broad-scale change, how much longer will Ontario’s children and youth still be forced to wait?