Mental health access not equal – Report


Northeastern Ontario residents and those living in other rural areas of the province are less likely to have access to a psychiatrist, according to a recent report.

Taking Stock: A report on the quality of mental health and addictions services in Ontario, indicates there are 8.3 psychiatrists per 100,000 residents in the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) region, compared to 62.7 per 100,000 in the Toronto Central LHIN.

The report, which was created by Health Quality Ontario (HQO) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), also found that people from rural areas who are hospitalized for a mental illness or addiction are less likely to have a follow-up visit with a physician within seven days after leaving the hospital – 23.1 per cent of rural residents have a visit compared to 30.4 per cent of urban residents.

“Our report makes it clear that not all Ontarians are getting the timely mental health and addictions care that they need,” said co-author Dr. Paul Kurdyak, in a release.

Kurdyak, lead of the mental health research program at ICES and director of health outcomes and performance evaluation at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said — as with many other illnesses – people have the best outcomes when a mental illness or addiction is identified and treated early.

“Finding ways to improve access to care will not only improve the immediate mental health of Ontarians, it will also ease the future burden of care needs for the individual patients and their families, as well as for the system overall.”

According to the report, about two million Ontarians are affected by a wide variety of mental illnesses and addictions each year. And, one-third of Ontarians who identified themselves in a 2012 survey as needing mental health or addiction services reported not getting help, or having their needs only partially met.

The report, which includes patient stories, is expected to help guide a new provincial strategy for mental health and addictions services.

“Ontarians have various mental illness and addictions services available to them, but not a comprehensive mental health system that meets their needs and provides services when and where they are needed, to everyone who needs them,” said Joshua Tepper, president and Chief executive officer of Health Quality Ontario. “The aim of Taking Stockis to begin to map out a route toward a comprehensive, effective, and equitable mental health system for Ontariothat can alleviate people’s suffering.”

Other key finding include:

* In total, there are roughly seven million visits to physicians’ offices in Ontario each year for mental illness or addiction, accounting for about 10 per cent of all visits to physicians in the province

* One-third of emergency department visits for mental illness or addiction are by people who have not been assessed and treated for these issues before by a physician in the last two years

• People with the lowest incomes are less likely to have a follow-up visit with a physician within seven days of leaving the hospital after admission for mental illness or addiction (26.9 per cent of people of the lowest income group have a visit, compared to 32.5 per cent of the highest income group).

• Young people are more likely to visit an emergency department for mental illness or addiction issues without prior outpatient contact with a physician for mental health or addiction care (42.7 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 vs. 29.8 per cent of people aged 25 and above.)

• Immigrants are more likely to be assessed for a mental illness or addiction for the first time in a hospital emergency department (38.6 per cent of immigrants are assessed for the first time vs. 32.5 per cent of non-immigrants.)

• The average wait time for community addiction treatment programs in the province improved to 16 days in 2012/13 from 26 days in 2008/09, and to 42 days for residential addiction treatment programs in 2012/13 from 49 days in 2008/09.


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