Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Children waiting for mental health services

An article posted today on
Children and families are waiting up to a year for a routine referral for mental health services at the IWK Health Centre, a group of Nova Scotia MLAs were told Tuesday.

Senior mental health officials told the community services committee that the health system is struggling to keep up with an ever-growing demand for services.

"We have between 700 and 1,000 children and families waiting. It's a moving target so it changes daily," said Susan Mercer, senior director of mental health and addiction services at the IWK, the children's hospital for the Maritimes.

Mercer said it should take no more than three months to get a regular appointment, but people are now waiting anywhere from six months to a year.

Linda Courey, director of mental health and addictions for the Cape Breton District Health Authority, said early diagnosis and treatment can be key.

"If you can identify these symptoms before the first psychotic episode the major decrease in functioning that these kids will experience over the course of their lives and the subsequent demand on the health-care system, you can prevent that. You can have a massive impact," she said.

But in Cape Breton, as in Halifax, only the sickest get help quickly, Courey added.

More money not the answer

New Democrat MLA Maurice Smith [pictured] found the news alarming.

"I just find it overwhelming," he said. "I'm amazed. It seems to me almost like a crisis kind of situation."

Mercer said there are too few resources to meet the demand. Even with more money, she said, there aren't enough mental-health workers to do the work.

"Everybody is struggling to provide adequate mental-health services across the country," Patricia Murray, director of children's services at the Department of Health, told the MLAs.

The government wants to revamp mental-health services across the province. It plans to name the members of a committee tasked to come up with a strategy in the next few weeks.

Also see:

Staff, money woes plague kids’ mental health care

About IWK mental health and addiction services

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