Patients with complex mental health challenges need access to a range of services which requires coordination, say Ontario’s psychiatrists.
ONTARIO, Feb. 20, 2020 – Ontario’s front-line psychiatrists are seeing first-hand how a lack of resources and services, a finite number of psychiatrists, and a growing demand for services is failing patients with complex mental illness.
“There simply aren’t enough of us to provide that level of support,” says Dr. Javeed Sukhera, president of the Ontario Psychiatric Association (OPA) and one of the authors of a new policy paper outlining key recommendations for the province to consider.
With the latest figures from Health Quality Ontario showing that timely assessments and follow-up care rates are getting worse, the paper, Towards Integrated Care: 8 Ways for Ontario to Better Connect Patients with Mental Health and Addictions Treatment, points out that patients in need of specialized service are likely to have even more problems accessing basic care.
This includes individuals with a dual diagnosis of a developmental disability combined with psychiatric illness, individuals with a concurrent substance use disorder combined with a psychiatric illness, or someone with a complex illness.
“When people have serious and complex mental illnesses in Ontario, they can encounter services that are fragmented and restrictive. Mental health is not funded in the same way other services are and, as a result, there are complicated inclusion and exclusion criteria,” explains Dr. Sukhera.
Immigrants, refugees, ethno-cultural and racialized groups, Indigenous Peoples, individuals living in northern and remote communities, minority official language communities and LGBTQ2+ individuals also experience particular issues with access to the mental health services they need.
The newly released paper outlines several recommendations for system improvement, drawn from the suggestions and insights of psychiatrists across Ontario.
The eight recommendations range from specific ones such as allowing psychiatrists to work at the top of their skill set with adequate supports in place to focus on community-based care in team-based settings, to broader calls to action such as increased investments in a health human resource strategy to address service shortages, rather than simply realigning existing resources.
“As psychiatrists, we are important contributors to the delivery and organization of mental health and addictions services in Ontario,” says Dr. Sukhera. “This is a system in crisis and as an organization, the Ontario Psychiatric Association is pushing the envelope for change.”
ABOUT ONTARIO PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION (OPA)
The Ontario Psychiatric Association is the provincial voice of Ontario’s Psychiatrists. The OPA serves to facilitate the exchange of scientific information, promote the optimal level of professional development and practice, advocate for the mentally ill and their families, represent members to governments, universities, and other medical associations, and promote the prevention of mental disorders in the province of Ontario. You can follow the OPA on Twitter @OntPsychAssoc or visit the website at https://www.eopa.ca/
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