PC Leader Tim Hudak and PC MPP Christine Elliott visit Youthdale Treatment Centreon Victoria Street in Toronto on Tuesday February 5 2013.
Credits: Antonella Artuso / Toronto SUN
Ontario's patchwork mental health care system is failing too many patients, PC Leader Tim Hudak says.
"The reality is for far too long we treated mental health and addiction as an afterthought. It's been relegated to the shadows of our health care system," Hudak said Tuesday. "People suffering from mental illness suffer in silence, often stigmatized, blamed and misunderstood.
"It's time that we in Ontario treated mental illness as important as physical illness," Hudak said during a visit to a Toronto mental health treatment facility for youth.
The Ontario Tories will release a new policy white paper this week titled A Healthier Ontario which calls for a co-ordinated mental health care system.
A 2010 Ontario committee that investigated mental health and addiction issues recommended the development of a coherent mental health system, one that ensured people had access to services -- regardless of where they lived in the province and at all stages of life, Tory MPP Christine Elliott said.
OHIP spends millions of dollars a year sending young people to the U.S. for treatment they can't get here, Elliott said.
Parents with means pay out of their own pocket to skip waiting lists that can last up to two years, she said.
"Imagine telling someone who's the parent of a suicidal 10 year-old that they're going to have to wait two years for treatment, or to tell that to the parents of a 13-year-old with a significant eating disorder," Elliott said. "It's really unconscionable and we need to do better for those individuals and families."
Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews said the province spends about $5 million a year in out-of-province residential mental health services, down from about $10 million in 2007-08.
A great deal of work is underway to coordinate services, and a specialized eating disorder program just opened in London, she said.
"Those people will be getting care in Ontario rather than going to the States," Matthews said. "We've got mental health workers in schools. They are working on earlier identification and earlier treatment of kids with mental health issues.
"There's nothing that Tim Hudak said today that we're not already making really important progress on. He's actually a couple of years behind us," she said.