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  • Oakwell Mental Health Services

Bridging the Gap: A Call to Action for Mental Health Services

[London, Ontario | December 15, 2023] The recent report, Nurturing Minds for Secure Futures, sheds light on the far-reaching consequences of delayed mental health care, particularly among children and youth in Canada. The economic impact of these delays is staggering, estimated at $4 billion annually, with significant implications for the affected individuals, families and the healthcare system as a whole.

 

Navigating mental health challenges is undeniably tough, especially when access to care becomes a hurdle. It can be heart-wrenching for parents and caregivers to watch their little ones grapple with these struggles, or experiencing the challenges themselves. The impact is far-reaching, underscoring the urgent need for accessible mental health services. It's disheartening to see individuals and families confront these difficulties without the necessary support and resources.

 

Oakwell stand in solidarity with the call to action presented in the report that recommends:  

  • Developing and funding a national child health strategy, 

  • Allocating resources for outcomes-based programs aiding vulnerable populations, and

  • Establishing a national data strategy to monitor youth mental health care statistics.

The Economic Toll of Delayed Mental Health Care: The report underscores that the costs associated with mental health struggles extend beyond the individual, affecting the healthcare system, communities, and productivity. Health-care costs include emergency department visits, prescription drugs, and in-patient hospital stays. Community costs encompass those associated with the criminal justice system, social services, family support, and provisions for mental health in public schools. Indirect costs refer to the lost income resulting from the time individuals must dedicate to managing their mental health independently due to inadequate access to proper healthcare.

 

Challenges Faced by Children and Youth: The report estimates that between 800,000 and 1.6 million children and teens in Canada may be facing mental health struggles. Unfortunately, this number may be higher due to under-diagnosis and lack of representation, particularly among marginalized groups. Delayed access to care exacerbates the challenges faced by vulnerable populations.

The Growing Problem: As outlined in this report, over the past two decades, mental health struggles have worsened for Canadian youth, dropping from 76% reporting good mental health in 2003 to 60% in 2019. The pandemic further intensified these challenges, leading to increased paediatric mental health visits to emergency departments. As reported by Children’s Mental Health Ontario “[i]n 2020, about 28,000 Ontario children and youth with mental health needs were reportedly on wait lists for treatment, a statistic that has more than doubled since 2017” (The Conference Board of Canada 2023). 

 

Despite the growing need, many children and youth are not receiving timely assistance. In Ontario alone, wait times for counseling and therapy averaged 67 days in 2020. Shockingly, in certain instances, the wait times for intensive treatment stretched to an astonishing 2.5 years, rendering these supports essentially irrelevant, particularly for those in crisis.  

Addressing the Urgency: Oakwell acknowledges the urgency of addressing this mental health crisis. We share the concern about the inadequacy of Canada's mental health spending, which accounts for only nine percent of the total health spending. To bridge the gap, the report recommends developing and funding a national child health strategy, allocating resources for outcomes-based programs aiding vulnerable populations, and establishing a national data strategy to monitor youth mental health care statistics.

 

Further: At Oakwell, we have observed a rising demand for subsidized, sliding-scale, and financial assistance in accessing mental health services. In light of this, we want to emphasize our commitment to maintaining the highest standards of care, even for those accessing therapy at a reduced rate. Oakwell is unique in that we do not employ interns or qualifying professionals to deliver these essential services. We firmly believe that everyone, regardless of financial circumstances, deserves the expertise and support of experienced and qualified clinicians. In navigating the challenges posed by economic crises and diminishing full-time positions with private benefits, our dedication remains steadfast to ensuring better access to professional health care services without compromising on excellence.

 

Let us work together to break down financial barriers and eliminate unacceptable wait times, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for Canada's children and youth.

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