Parties unite on mental health push in Ontario – Ontario/

In a bid to boost mental health services in Ontario, opposition parties are teaming up with former Ontario health minister David Caplan on a private member’s bill to streamline the system from childhood to adulthood.

His bill would shift responsibility for children’s mental health efforts to the health ministry from the ministry of children and youth services.

“Hopefully the left hand will know what the right hand is doing,” said Caplan, supported by Progressive Conservative MPP Christine Elliott (Whitby-Oshawa) and New Democrat MPP France Gélinas (Nickel Belt).

The problem is that, with different ministries in charge, adolescents “get lost” in the system and need to be re-evaluated as they pass from one level to the next, Caplan added.

While private members’ bills rarely become law, he’s hoping the support from rival parties sends a message to the government in the wake of a report from the Legislature’s select committee on mental health and addictions in August

The all-party committee made 23 recommendations for improvements after travelling the province to hear from families on the front line, concluding, among other things, that adolescents fall through the gap between programs for children and adults.

It also found that the system has no real place for children with autism or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The committee report also noted that Ontarians wait too long for treatment, don’t get the right treatment and frequently suffer in silence. Seriously ill people are often turned away from emergency departments or released from hospital with no continuing treatment plan or before their condition is stabilized.

One of the key recommendations was consolidating all mental health and addictions services under the health ministry, in an umbrella agency called Mental Health and Addictions Ontario.

Elliott, who is also deputy leader of the Conservatives, said she hopes the government supports Caplan’s bill.

“For the best services it should all be under one organization,” she told the Star. “We recommended that in the select committee because the programs are so fragmented.”

The office of Health Minister Deb Matthews declined comment, saying it needs time to look at the details of Caplan’s bill.

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