Hope key when battling mental illness

Aurora Banner, YorkRegion.com Fri Jun 20 2014

Kinark Child and Family Services chief of psychiatry Dr. Rod Evans speaks eloquently and bluntly about the mysteries and maladies of the human mind.

He is candid about challenges, the increasingdemandson the York Region mental health system, the growing queuesfrustratingpatients and clinicians alike, the range of disorders and how the term 'cure' isn't always part of the mental health care lexicon.

The man who also serves as Kinark's clinical services vice-president suggests there is a powerfulantidotefor people battling mental illness.

"A sense of hope is what we try to instill at the personal and program level," he said. "Hope is part of therapy. Hope is a vital part of any health intervention."

Optimism, the child and adolescent psychiatrist contends, can be a powerful aid for people battling mental illness.

As one of Ontario's foremost and busiest mental health organizations, Kinark's 850 staffers work with a $70-million budget to serve some 9,400 children, youth and families each year through three core pillars.

Based in Markham, the organization provides evidence-based services thatincludeindividual, family and group counselling for children and youth living with mental health issues.

Kinark supports children with autism spectrum disorder and their families as well as institutionally and community-based forensic and youth justice services.

The agency also operates the Kinark Outdoor Centre in Minden, Ontario, providing programming, respite and therapeutic recreation.

There's no doubt mental health issues are escalating, Dr. Evans said.

One in five young people is battling a mental health issue and 70 per cent of all mental health and addictions issues begin in childhood and adolescence, he noted, referring to Ontario's comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy, Moving On Mental Health.

Healingand hope, when an individual or theirlovedones suspect mental challenges, begins with anhonest, albeit oftendifficult, conversation, he said. Of the varied entry points into the mental health system, the first is a referring family physician.

Then the patient must be patient. There are "shameful" wait lists for mental health services, including those at Kinark, he said, adding,

"We're taking steps to change that."

Still, there's reason to be hopeful.

The Children and Youth Services, Education, Health and Long-Term Care and Training, Colleges and Universities ministries are working in partnership to implement a comprehensive strategy focusing on children and youth first.

Launched in 2012, its goals are toimproveaccess to highqualitymental health and addictions services,strengthenworker capacity, create a responsive and integrated system andbuildawareness and capacity about mental health issues within communities.

In spite ofdifficulteconomic circumstances and enormous fiscal challenges, new funding is reducing wait times for mental health services, ensuring earlier identification and fast access to the right services.

The strategy has already put 600 new mental health workers on the ground in schools, communities and youth courts to provide services to an estimated 20,000 more kids and their families.

Specifically, Moving On Mental Health is transforming the experience of families seeking help by creatingclearand streamlined pathways to care between primary care, schools and community-based supports and services that will help children and youth moving through and across the service system know what to expect along the way.

The plan is also establishing lead agencies across Ontario responsible for providing core services and collaborating effectively with other services that play a role in young peoples' lives. Theseincludeschools, hospitals, those working in primary care and child welfare authorities. Parents will only have tell their stories once, the province promised.

Closer to home, the Central Local Health Integration Network, responsible for York Region, is committed toimprovingthe mental health and well-being of people of all ages in its coverage areas.

In 2013, Central LHIN invested almost $72 million in mental health and addictions.

By aligning with Ontario's strategy, the network is focusing resources where thegreatestimpact can be felt and experienced by patients - co-ordinating care, bridging gaps in the system, reducing wait times for assessment and services and enhancing community supports.

The network funds various York Region-based mental health and addictions service providers, including our three hospitals.

Specific examples of recent network investments in our communities:

$302,200 in base funding to support mental health and addictions crisis services for York Support Services Network and the Krasman Centre;

$130,000 in base funding to the Krasman Centre to support the implementation of peer navigators in two hospital emergency departments (Southlake Regional Health Centre and North York General Hospital) with high volumes of people presenting with mental health/addictions issues;

$2 million to expand access to community opioid addiction treatment as well as services for pregnant and parenting women with substance use conditions to Addiction Services for York Region and Black Creek Community Health Centre;

$195,684 in base funding to York RegionAbuseProgram in Newmarket to expand access to cultural and linguistic-appropriatetrauma-specific therapy and mental health and addictions case management services for adults;

$600,000 to LOFT Community Services to increase the number of transitional supportive housing beds to 10 in Stouffville so 30 people per year living with serious mental health/addictions challenges will have access to housing that meets their needs. Central LHIN also invested $550,000 in base funding last year to expand LOFT's existing assisted living housing capacity to 50 seniors with serious mental health issues and addictions in Bradford;

$480,000 in base funding to the Canadian Mental Health Association - York Region Branch to increase access to short-term housing services for 200 people annually and to help clients find permanent housing.

$4 million for behavioural supports for seniors. As Central network's population is aging and the number of people with cognitive impairment is growing, the network, under the behavioural supports Ontario initiative, enhanced resources by $4 million annually. The network is committed toimprovingcare for people living with challenging behaviours associated with mental health, addictions, dementia or other neurological conditions.