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Richmond Hill Liberal: Provincial eating disorders program positive move

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York expert says we need prevention, faster assessment

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Richmond Hill Liberal

A new residential treatment program for children and youth with eating disorders is welcome news, but more needs to be done to assist those struggling before their illness become life-threatening, says Janice Morgante, executive director of Eating Disorders of York Region’s Riverwalk Wellness Centres.

Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced yesterday $17.2 million in funding over four years will create a new 24-hour care program, to be located in Whitby.

It will be the first of its kind in Canada, allowing those with severe eating disorders to be cared for closer to home rather than referred to the United States.

It also means patients can access Ontario’s health care services and schools, stay near family, and make better use of “precious health care dollars”, she said.

The program, to open at Whitby’s Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences this fall, will have 12 beds and treat approximately 32 patients annually.

Ontario currently refers approximately 25 children and youth per year to residential treatment for eating disorders at private facilities in the United States where average treatment costs $1,285 per patient per day.

Treatment at the Ontario facility will be $918 per patient per day, she said.

While the residential program is helpful, Ms Morgante said, there is still a need for funding for early intervention so that hospitalization is never required.

“Keeping money in the country is a good thing,” she said, “but the province should also invest in prevention.”

In York Region, Southlake Hospital offers one pediatric bed, a program for teens and a transition program for youth, while CMHA offers a psycho-education program for adults once or twice a year, she said.

Long wait lists mean patients wait for months for assessment and access to treatment, she said.

“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental health issue striking young children and there really are no resources in the community,” she said.

“It’s one thing to say we have a bed waiting for you when you’re bad enough, but what’s in between?”

At the earliest sign of struggle, a child or youth should be able to ask for help, without shame or blame, and access knowledgeable support within the community, she said.

“We need to lessen the stigma, increase understanding and awareness so those who are struggling can reach out earlier, rather than allow a growing child to become so seriously impacted by the disorder that he or she becomes medically unstable and requires hospitalization.”

Source: http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/4419325-provincial-eating-disorders-program-positive-move/

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