A new report from Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) says the province’s children and youth under 18 are now waiting as long as two-and-a-half years to receive mental health treatment, and wait lists for services have more than doubled in the past two years.
Kids can’t wait: 2020 report on wait lists and wait times for child and youth mental health care in Ontario is the result of an online survey of nearly 100 child and youth mental health centres across Ontario in fall 2019, and subsequent interviews with the centres that reported long wait times for services. Data collected included the amount of time children, youth and families at the top of wait lists had been waiting for services as well as the total number of individuals on wait lists.
Main findings from the research include:
- The length of time and the number of young people and their families waiting for Ontario publicly-provided child and youth mental health care is at an all-time high.
- Twenty-eight thousand children and youth are now waiting for mental health treatment. CMHO’s previous survey of wait lists and wait times from 2017 estimated there were 12,000 children and youth waiting to access services.
- The longest wait for services is now up to two-and-a-half years. Average wait time is 67 days for counselling and therapy and 92 days for intensive treatment.
- There are significant inequities in wait times based on where you live, how old you are, who you are and what type of treatment you need.
- An estimated 200,000 kids with serious mental health issues have no contact with mental health services at all.
- Much-needed programs, often for treatment of children with the most serious mental health issues, don’t exist in many rural, remote and northern communities.
- Despite innovative approaches to improve flow through the system and reduce wait times, such as walk-in clinics, rapid access clinics, youth hubs and group care, which ensure high-risk individuals receive treatment more quickly, those who don’t require immediate care are waiting much longer than evidence suggests is best practice.
Communities with the longest wait times for services include York (919 days), Durham (827 days), Northumberland (792 days), Peel (737 days), Hamilton (710 days) and Toronto (684 days).
Read CMHO’s 2020 pre-budget submission to the Ontario government, which outlines how targeted spending can mitigate wait times.