The Auditor General of Ontario’s 2016 Annual Report released today sheds light on the urgent need to invest in a more accessible mental health and addictions system.
“The audits released today confirm what our members see on the front-lines everyday: that demand for treatment is rising, wait lists are growing, and as a result the addiction and mental healthcare needs of too many Ontarians are not being met,” said Gail Czukar, AMHO’s CEO.
The report finds that hospitalizations of children and youth with mental-health problems have increased by 50% since 2008/09, and the number of people going to hospital emergency rooms with mental-health issues rose 21% over the past five years.
“As we make strides to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction, more Ontarians are starting to feel comfortable reaching out for help. But instead of finding treatment, too often they find wait lists,” continued Czukar. “Leaving people without access to treatment hinders their lives, negatively impacts their families and communities, and even can lead to the loss of life.”
“What is particularly dispiriting about today’s report is how little has changed. For example, the Auditor-General examined children’s mental health programs in 2003. Over a decade later, and we are still struggling with the same issues,” said Czukar.
Most comparable jurisdictions allocate more than 10% of their healthcare budgets to mental health and addictions, and it is estimated that mental health and addictions accounts for 10% of the burden of disease in Ontario. However, Ontario invests about 6% of healthcare dollars into these areas, creating a funding gap of around $1.5 billion dollars.
Despite the rising demand for mental health and addiction services, most organizations providing these services have received no base budget increases to offset inflation, or rising demand, in the last decade.
The report highlights the need to invest in greater, faster access to community-based supports, such as supportive housing, which cost approximately almost 90% less than hospitals, and would free up space for the hospitals to treat more people with the most severe or complex needs.
“This is a clear call to action to the government. Meaningful change requires them to make investments in mental health and addictions a priority,” said Czukar.
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For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Jessica Behnke, Communications and Public Affairs Officer
Addictions and Mental Health Ontario