Ontario adding mental health beds in 16 hospitals as COVID-19 takes a toll

Posted on January 25, 2021 in Health Delivery System

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TheStar.com – Politics/Provincial

Ontario is adding mental health beds in 16 hospitals to cope with increased demand and will increase funding for a seniors’ help line as pandemic lockdowns continue under the state of emergency and stay-at-home orders.

The 46 new beds amount to an increase of just under one per cent of the approximately 4,700 already available for adults.

“These beds will support patients living with mental-health challenges as well as individuals who are experiencing a mental-health crisis that requires treatment and care that is more appropriately provided in a hospital setting,” Michael Tibollo, associate minister of mental health and addictions, told a news conference Thursday.

“Increased periods of social isolation coupled with the uncertainty of the times have created added pressure which can be difficult for people to handle.”

The new beds account for most of the $12 million set aside for the expansions in mental health services, which include $130,000 for the Seniors Safety Line to hire and train more operators to meet higher volumes of calls to their toll-free number 1-866-299-1011.

Seniors Safety Line helps people experiencing physical, emotional or financial abuse and neglect and encourages any seniors in these situations to reach out to a trusted friend, relative or medical professional.

Tibollo said lockdowns are hard on mental health but have been necessary to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, which computer modelling recently warned could monopolize intensive care beds needed for car accident victims, heart patients and others requiring emergency surgery.

“That’s the way we have to handle this. There are no other options.”

Baycrest Hospital is getting up to $1.1 million from the government to improve service at its behavioural neurology unit, which has 20 beds and works with seniors who have dementia and significant symptoms.

As well, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health is being provided with $164,000 to improve training for staff who work with residents of nursing homes and retirement homes.

That money will help staff “increase their understanding of the mental health challenges and unique needs of older adults,” the government said.

A report from the Ontario government’s science table of doctors, epidemiologists and others advising Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday that the pandemic has seen increased use of “psychotropic drugs” on nursing-home residents.

The report also found that many residents are experiencing cognitive declines that will be difficult to reverse.


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