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Citizens With Disabilities - Ontario
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Mentally Ill Youth Neglected; Advocates Say Funding In "Crisis" Mode

The Observer
By Stephen Huebl
May 28, 2007

Children with mental health challenges are being neglected by government, the head of a local advocacy group says.

Despite a clear need, funding for children's mental health services locally and across the province has remained flat since 1992, said Peter Smith, head of the Advocacy Committee of Lambton County.

Smith is also the board chairperson for St. Clair Child and Youth Services, a local children's mental health centre.

"It's gotten to the point where children's mental health is in crisis," he told The Observer. "We need to act now."

Over the last 15 years, funding has eroded for support programs and services that deal with everything from depression and suicide to disruptive behaviour and Attention Deficit Disorder, Smith said.

The current provincial government did increase funding by five per cent this year, but it was not nearly enough to make up for over a decade of inaction, he said.

"Frankly, we need there to be a five per cent increase each year for the next 10 years."

He said an added incentive to commit the funding to help children at a young age is that it saves the government money down the road that would otherwise be spent on education, healthcare and court costs to deal with troubled individuals later in life.

"There's pay back all the way through," he said.

Present wait times for much-needed services can be up to five months, which Smith calls unacceptable. During those type of wait periods there is a fear that a child's condition will only worsen, he said.

Fortunately for Sarnia mother Amy Brand, her two-year-old twin girls with Down Syndrome received the appropriate programs, such as occupational, speech and physical therapies, soon after they were born.

"I was one of the lucky ones because I didn't have to wait," she said.

As a result, her daughters received the programs and referrals that have had a profound impact on their development, Brand said.

"We would be lost (without the support)," she said, adding that's why she can sympathize with parents who have to wait for months to get help for their children.

"Having a child with special needs is very stressful to begin with. But knowing there are services available in your city and that you have to wait for it is so frustrating," she said.

The infant therapist at St. Clair Child and Youth Services was able to act as a liaison to provide Brand with information on the support that was available within in the community.

St. Clair provides services to 1,300 children and youth under the age of 17 per year. While it provides the majority of services for children with mental health challenges, it is also instrumental in giving referrals to other service providers within the community.

Smith said he wants the issue of funding for children's mental health services to become an election issue this fall so candidates will be forced to publicly state where they stand.

"The politicians seem to be a little slow in realizing this is a high priority action," he said.

Taken from http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:_A-qA0XvP5UJ:www.kidsmentalhealth.ca/news_and_events/viewarticle.php%3Fid%3D291+mentally+ill+youth+neglected+sarnia&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=ca

People Must Pay Attention To Children's Mental Health Issues

Editorial - Monday, June 11, 2007 @ 16:00
The Sarnia Observer

Sir: In response to your article "Mentally ill youth neglected," I want to thank you for bringing this matter to the public attention.

As a young girl back in my country of birth, I used to see people with mental illnesses get humiliated, taunted and chased by young children. I remember at age seven, the road to my school passed by the houses of two mentally challenged people. When those people's illness was aroused due to one reason or another, it was very difficult for us (the school kids) to reach our school. One day we were stuck on the road back home because those individuals were furious. We had to wait for a couple of hours before their families got a grip on the situation and it was safe for us to pass the road. I thought this kind of experience would never happen in a country like Canada.

I thought the neglect of this vulnerable category of people belonged only to developing countries. Was I mistaken?

More or less the same thing has been shown on TV to be the case on east side Edmonton. The increasing number of mentally challenged homeless is on the rise in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, etc.

Our own experience in Sarnia is no exception. The unfortunate death of the young man who escaped from the psychiatric ward at Bluewater Heath's Mitton Site is another tragedy to be added to the grim picture.

As a mother of a bright boy with Attention Deficit Disorder, I feel equally blessed and tested. I'm blessed for that my bright son doesn't have as severe a condition as many other kids have. I'm also tested because of the daily challenges that we, as a family, have to go through to help him and accommodate his needs.

Many people don't know what it is like to have a child with mental health challenges; others don't care. Is it ignorance that dictates our lives or our self-consumption? Do we have to be hit hard with such disability to realize how much attention we should pay? I pray for you all to continue in your blessed life without the suffering that many of us have to go through. I also pray that you will be enlightened by such stories and situations.

The children's mental health sector in Ontario is underfunded. Our local children's mental health provider is facing a tremendous financial pressure. As its deficit accumulates, it's either one of two routes it has to go, to cancel programs and reduce services or extend the waiting lists more and more.

It is an investment in the future of our society and country to pay more attention to the children's mental health issues now rather than later. Many of these illnesses can be treated and improved, especially when the children get the attention they need at an early age.

Children and youth with mental health issues need your attention, compassion and action.

Sahar Nasr
Children's Mental Health
Advocacy Committee
Sarnia-Lambton

Taken from http://www.theobserver.ca/webapp/sitepages/content.asp?contentid=566252&catname=Editorial&classif=.

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