Health News For Sudbury–Manitoulin–Parry Sound

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Thursday, October 04, 2018

Less talk, more coordinated action on mental illness needed

Concern about the growing rates of mental illness and the complicated patchwork of agencies funded to assist people living with mental illness is causing many local organizations to call for less talk and more coordinated action to support people living with mental illness and their families.

These organizations are walking their talk. With Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 1 to 7) in full swing, members of the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table want the public to know they are joining forces to make things better.

“We are aware of the needs and we are aware that many diverse sectors must work together to make a difference,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts and co-chair of the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table. “The Action Table brings together health care, police, education, social services, the municipality, mental health advocates, addiction services, justice, people with lived experience, and others to put real issues on the table and take concerted actions to address them.”

“System pressures due to mental illness are seen throughout Ontario and are also part of our local reality. Hospital use for mental health and addictions has never been greater and the number of people accessing mental health and addictions services continues to grow right along with our wait times for community services. These system pressures require innovative solutions and strong partnerships if we are to make change happen,” said Dr. Natalie Aubin, Administrative Director, Mental Health and Addictions, Health Sciences North (HSN). Dr. Aubin joins Dr. Sutcliffe as co-chair of the Mental Health and Addictions System Priority Action Table.

The Action Table is relatively new; however, members are proud to score some early wins and are hungry for more. One key to success is their focus on building on existing services and making cross system connections to serve people better.

One example of success is how the Action Table worked with Health Sciences North to reduce mental health-related emergency department visits by implementing revised work standards enabling a simple pathway to a key community initiative led by the Canadian Mental Health Association – Sudbury/Manitoulin (CMHA) called the Rapid Mobilization Table (RMT).

“The RMT includes 25 community partners and has been in place for almost 5 years as a venue for connecting those who are at high risk of harm to necessary services and supports,” said Marion Quigley, Executive Director of the CMHA – Sudbury/Manitoulin. “The creative and collaborative responses of the RMT partners have contributed to great outcomes for Mental Health and Addictions presentations in our community.

Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Action Table, the formalized integration of this new pathway from HSN’s Emergency Department Crisis Services has enhanced access to the RMT at a critical point in the patients care trajectory.”

“It may not sound like much, but health care is incredibly complex, and change is difficult. This is no small feat so we’re very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in only but a few months. We look forward to sharing additional successes down the road,” said Dr. Aubin.

The next mental health improvements on the Action Table’s radar include finding ways to help people and families in need better navigate the complex mental health system and finding ways to amplify the voice of people living with mental illness.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Ontario’s mental health is in crisis mode:
• One-third of those with mental health and addiction problems can’t access the help they need.
• Since 2008–2009, there has been a 60 per cent increase in hospitalizations of children and youth with mental health challenges.
• Over the past 5 years, repeat emergency room visits within 30 days for substance use have increased by 20 per cent and for mental health by 9 per cent.
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