Mental health: Early intervention is key

Posted on January 2, 2011 in Health Debates

Source: — Authors: – opinion/editorials
Published On Sun Jan 02 2011.

Police, judges, emergency room doctors and even elementary school teachers are daily faced with the troubling consequences of Ontarians struggling with untreated mental illnesses.

Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that the province’s expert advisory panel has recommended a revamp of Ontario’s mental health and addiction services with a focus on early intervention. That is exactly what countless other reports and heartbreaking coroners’ inquests have already concluded.

Ontario’s services are so scarce and hard to navigate that appropriate help often doesn’t come until it is too late. Some of the best treatment programs (though insufficient in supply) are found in prisons. The report highlights the case of a woman who was in an emergency room 83 times before mental health services finally kicked in. The unnecessary costs of that to our health system and her well-being are staggering.

Indeed, Ontario spends more than $3 billion on mental health programs; yet that investment “has not resulted in a measurable improvement in mental health,” states the report, released last month.

Health Minister Deb Matthews has committed to producing a 10-year mental health strategy to address these concerns by the coming spring. At a minimum, the new strategy should ensure that people get the help they need before a mental breakdown leads to loss of employment or to a jail cell.

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