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Substance-related ER visits growing seven times faster: auditor general

4th Dec 2019 AMHO News

December 4, 2019

Toronto—Today’s report from the provincial Auditor General confirms the demand for addiction services is growing, with emergency room visits for substance-use increasing almost seven times faster than ER visits overall.

“Emergency room visits for substance-use conditions are increasing exponentially. We need more community-based addictions services to keep up,” said Adrienne Spafford, CEO of Addictions and Mental Health Ontario. “Today’s report backs up what our members see on the ground and underlines how important community-based mental health and addiction services are.”

The auditor general’s report included a detailed review of addictions treatment programs. It found longer wait times and insufficient community-based addictions services lead to people being hospitalized unnecessarily.

It found that over the last five years, ER visits for substance-use conditions rose by 40 per cent and repeat visits within a month rose by almost 50 per cent. In contrast, the overall increase in ER visits grew by only six per cent.

“Improving community-based support is the best way to prevent hospital visits. We need to double efforts to create a comprehensive and connected addiction and mental health system,” said Spafford.

Other key issues identified by the auditor general were a lack of integration and coordination with the system and the need to establish evidence-based standards for the addiction sector. AMHO supports these recommendations.

Spafford said AMHO and its members look forward to working with the province to implement the recommendations from this report. She said the government’s commitment to invest $3.8 billion for these services and the creation of the Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence, are meaningful steps towards improving access to high quality, evidence-based addiction care in Ontario.


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