Call for help ‘silenced’
Provincial promises fail to deliver the mental health and addictions services Nipissing needs, says DNSSAB
The District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board is requesting the Ministry of Health launch an independent inquiry to examine the apparent inequity for mental health and addictions services in Nipissing District.
Recent data shows wait times in the district for these services are three times longer than provincial and northeastern regional averages in some service categories, according to DNSSAB.
“The data obtained from the Northeast Local Health Integration Network demonstrates significant inequity for citizens needing mental health and addictions services in this region. The inequity in the Nipissing and North Bay region is unacceptable. Our board asked for a review only to be silenced at a local committee,” states DNSSAB chairman Mark King.
LHIN data from July shows that in the Nipissing District wait times for case management and supportive counselling and services – addictions supportive housing is at 365 days, DNSSAB stated in a release Friday.
“This compares with 60 days overall for the whole province and only 16 days within northeastern Ontario. Anyone seeking addictions treatment will wait an average 30 days in Nipissing compared with an average of 14 days in Ontario,” the agency states.
“Residential supportive treatment for addictions in Nipissing District amounts to an average wait of 270 days compared with 30 days on average in the province. These local wait times are considerably higher than the provincial average and the highest in the northeast region.”
According to the DNSSAB, a significant portion of this increase is related to mental health and addictions demand.
“There is a clear need for an effective and timely response to people in need of supports, where they live and when they need it,” says North Bay Coun. George Maroosis. “We have been aware of this need for quite some time and have been advocating for increased assistance for people in Nipissing District.”
Some of this data can be attributed to an historic problem as North Bay was designated for many years as the North Eastern Ontario Psychiatric Centre, Maroosis explains.
“The psychiatric hospital underwent
Unfortunately, the promises made by successive provincial governments to provide adequate services and housing have not happened.” North Bay Coun. george Maroosis
a series of downsizings and finally closed. And when the new hospital opened, there were even fewer beds to deal with mental illnesses. Many patients remained in our community for reasons ranging from being close to familiar outpatient services to not being welcome at home,” he says.
“Unfortunately, the promises made by successive provincial governments to provide adequate services and housing have not happened.”
prior to the provincial election, dNSSab asked the ministry and LhIN to fund a third-party independent review of the mental health and addictions needs for Nipissing district, King says. It also requested it be empowered to create a crisis task force to deal with emergency issues in the community.
“there was no uptake to this call to action from the health-care sector.”
King says the independent inquiry now being requested would target significant gaps in the system and would examine how to best to serve the vulnerable in the district.
“Clients have arrived at our doorstep with health conditions so significant that some have gone unresponsive in the office and have required critical emS transportation,” he says.
“the system is too fragmented. too many vulnerable people in our district are suffering needlessly because they don’t have a doctor who can address their needs or refer them to the appropriate service that can help them.”
What compounds the problem, King says, is that the lack of timely access can lead to degenerating health conditions and increased costs through emergency department visits. It also increases the urgency of ambulance calls.
“In the case of mental health and addictions, increased police calls and, ultimately community victimization, have occurred when substance abuse and mental health issues go unchecked.
“this is a grave community crisis we are seeing,” he says.
“We have seen no real effort on the Ne LhIN to help or restructure the sector to shorten wait times. a crisis requires more than a bandaid, it requires an independent inquiry.”