Thank you very much. My name is Kim Moran. I am the CEO of Children's Mental Health Ontario. CMHO is the association that represents over 100 publicly funded child and youth mental health centres in Ontario, providing expert treatment and support to children, youth, and families throughout Ontario.
We want to thank the government for their explicit attention to child and youth mental health, and their commitment to mental health in Bill C-44.
As a chartered professional accountant, I understand the difficulties in budgeting and in making ends meet. After working at UNICEF, where we designed health care systems around the world, I have some sense of how to make things effective as well. However, as a parent of a child with a severe mental illness, I have a strong consumer voice to add to the public policy perspective.
Every week there is another headline about youth suicide. Canada's youth suicide rate, we all agree, is much higher than it should be, and we know how to prevent suicide for the most part. Expert report after expert report all say that providing psychotherapy and other intensive treatment when kids need it can avert a crisis. However, the current provision of mental health services is almost entirely focused on waiting until kids become acutely ill to provide services.
My daughter was having suicidal thoughts, and we were told to wait until she had a suicidal plan until we could get treatment. It's like telling a kid with cancer to wait until it spreads all over the body. It just doesn't make any sense.
We do know how to reduce suicides. It requires a number of tactics, using a population-based strategy. It starts with promoting mental wellness to all kids.
The second effort is to provide easy-to-access counselling services for those kids with mild mental health issues to ensure they don't get worse. We need lots of services like these in lots of places, because there are lots of kids. We know one out of five kids has a mental health issue. Primary care doctors need to be at schools, colleges, universities, in communities, on the phone, wherever kids are.
The third effort needs to be about delivering high-quality treatment to those kids with a moderate to severe mental health issue, and provided by specialized child and youth mental health experts.
Just to be clear, these problems can be solved with three strategies. The first is to promote mental wellness. The second is to provide easy-to-access counselling services for kids with mild mental health issues. The third is to provide expert, specialized mental health treatment for kids with moderate to severe mental health issues.
Both the Canadian Public Health Association and Ian Boeckh are going to be talking later. They can talk about solving the access problems around counselling services for kids with mild mental health issues. I am going to talk today to some data that has been brought to our attention, and that's on kids who are going to hospital and are most likely to die by suicide, the kids who have a moderate to severe mental health issue. They comprise 12.6% of all kids in Canada right now.
CIHI, the Canadian Institute for Health Information, recently released new data that shows a staggering 56% increase in kids going to emergency departments, and a 47% increase over the last decade in hospitalizations of kids with mental health issues, at a time when hospitalizations for every other childhood disorder dropped by 18%. This data signals that we have a really serious crisis.
We all know that to control spiralling health care costs, investment in home and community care both to prevent and divert kids from hospitals makes good financial sense; but the data shows that the health care system is failing to provide the right services in the community. We've estimated the cost in Ontario at $175 million annually, and over the next five years it will cost us $1 billion, unless we change the way we do things.
CMHO has reported long wait times throughout Ontario for basic counselling and therapy for kids with moderate to severe mental health issues. In Ottawa, kids will wait up to 18 months. In the Toronto GTA, they'll wait up to two years. It doesn't make any sense.
My daughter was 11 years old when she rapidly became very depressed. She needed a full interprofessional team to provide care, with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and child and youth workers. But we couldn't get the care we needed, and from depression she rapidly became suicidal as she waited for specialized child and youth mental health treatment.
We need a long-term, intensive treatment program for those kids, and it has to be in the community. They can't access it now. There simply is not enough capacity.
We were encouraged to see the government's commitment to mental health in this year's budget. We know by investing in community care for kids like mine that we'll save about $175 million annually in Ontario, but we need your help to ensure that this money goes where it needs to go: directly to the service providers who are delivering therapy treatment to children and youth who are waiting for help.
Kids can't wait, nor should they have to, so we need your help. We know that the federal government wants to see wait times for child and youth mental health treatment go down. You've been explicit about this in your communication. Instead of simply prescribing in a bill that funding for mental health and home care services must be calculated according to provincial population, we want to see an additional calculation that ensures a proportionate amount of funding is earmarked for children and youth, and further, to ensure that the community-based agencies that deliver treatment to these kids are properly resourced to do this job and do it well.
We would welcome the opportunity to be involved in the development of indicators to ensure that happens.