I’m going to focus, in the brief time that I have, on four of these ministries that are delivering mental health services that have a direct and very immediate impact on my community of London West.
First, of course, we have the Ministry of Health. The Ministry of Health funds hospitals, as we know, but, as I have said here in this Legislature numerous times, the funding that is provided to our hospitals is not sufficient to address the needs of our community. In my city of London, we have had people waiting for a week or more on a hallway stretcher in the London Health Sciences Centre emergency room, waiting for a mental health bed. That is unacceptable, it is inhumane and it cannot continue in this province of Ontario.
Just two hours ago, the London Free Press posted another story: “London ER Waits Reach All-Time Worst for Patients Needing Beds in Understaffed Psychiatric Ward.” This has reached such a crisis, is such an emergency, that London Health Sciences Centre has asked for 24 additional beds to accompany the 74 psychiatric beds that are currently available. They have identified the need for a 32% increase in beds in my community.
We also have the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, which is funding children’s mental health. This week, on Monday, my first day back in the Legislature, I raised the issue of the crisis in children’s mental health in my community. This summer, I met with seven of the agencies that provide these services. These agencies are not even looking at what services they can cut; they’re looking at how they will even be able to continue to operate, because the level of funding has not kept up with the need for services in my community.
Within my caucus, I am critic for advanced education and skills development. There is a crisis in campus mental health across this province. Last academic year at the University of Guelph, four young people died by suicide. We have post-secondary institutions trying desperately to meet this need and trying to become mental health service providers, but they are crying for assistance from this government.
And finally, in our schools we are seeing—in Woodstock, we saw five young people who were attending Thames Valley schools die by suicide over a period of months. We have an epidemic of violence in our schools that has been identified by educators because young people are not getting the mental health services that they require.
This stand-alone ministry would enable the kind of coordination and integration that is necessary to address this problem and move our province forward.