Wynne Liberals fail vulnerable children and youth by freezing mental health budgets: NDP

Two London NDP MPPs say the Wynne Liberals have worsened a funding crisis in children’s mental health services in Ontario, by failing to increase base funding for care agencies for more than 10 years, coupled with decades of chronic underfunding.

“Children and youth across Ontario are in desperate need of help, and children’s mental health agencies are struggling to keep up,” said London West MPP Peggy Sattler. “By perpetuating and worsening this funding crisis, Kathleen Wynne is failing children and youth living with mental health issues and their families. This is contributing to the tragedy of youth suicide we have experienced in London and communities across Ontario, and the epidemic of youth suicide among indigenous young people.”

“Under this Liberal government, waitlists for children to access mental health services have ballooned to 12,000 across the province, and demand for services continues to grow,” said London-Fanshawe MPP Teresa Armstrong. “Children in crisis need immediate access to community-based supports. Without adequate funding, more and more children are finding themselves without the support they need at the time that they need it, often with tragic consequences.”

Sattler and Armstrong met with representatives from local children and youth mental health agencies this morning to discuss the issue, after seven local agencies wrote a joint letter outlining the harm the Liberal government continues to do to these vital services.

According to the letter writers, the Wynne Liberals are ignoring  “… the fact that in the last 25 years, there have been only two base funding increases for agencies providing these services… During that time, inflation has risen by nearly 53%. The demand for these services is growing by 10% per year.” 

While children’s overall hospitalization rates have fallen by 18 per cent, since 2006 there has been a 63 per cent increase in emergency department visits for children’s mental health disorders in Ontario and a 67 per cent increase in hospitalizations. Data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) also showed that children with mental health disorders are readmitted more than twice as often as those with other conditions. 

“We are not heading toward a crisis, we are there now,” say the letter writers. “Neglecting mentally ill children and youth when they are in the community and could be helped, only to spend money on them once their conditions have worsened to the point of an expensive hospital visit is not an outcome of diligent financial governance. Money aside, it is an unacceptable way to treat our children and their families.”

The meeting was attended by most of the letter cosignatories, including Jean-Marc Boisvenue, Vice Chair of Vanier Children’s Services; Lyn Ibson and Carolee Coulter, Craigwood Youth Services; John Pare, Past Board President of WAYS Mental Health Support; Brenda Kerton, Board Chair of London Family Court Clinic; Lisa Taylor, Board Chair of Anago; Sister Nancy Wales, Board President of Merrymount Family Support and Crisis Centre; and Ernie Raftis, Boys & Girls Club of London. Cosignatory Community Services Coordination Network was unable to send a representative to the meeting.