THUNDER BAY — Official Opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath was in Thunder Bay Tuesday to call for urgent investments in mental health and addictions care in the community — to save precious lives, and to end the terrible pressure being put on the Thunder Bay hospital.
In 2020 there were 6,828 mental health and addictions visits to the emergency room at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC). Thunder Bay only has one 25-bed treatment centre, the Balmoral centre, and it turns away about 3,000 people a year.
“A mental health and addictions crisis is raging, and in Thunder Bay there are too few options to turn to for help,” said Horwath. “Families are being torn apart. People are ending up in the ER again and again. Parents are losing their precious children.
“Today, nearly 20 people will go to the ER because they’re in a mental health emergency, or because their life is at risk from overdose. Nearly 10 will try to get help today, but the Balmoral Centre won’t have a bed for them. Thunder Bay families need and deserve urgent action and investments, not more cuts.”
The sector was already badly underfunded when the Doug Ford government cut $330 million from planned mental health and addictions funding province-wide in 2018, then limited the number of overdose prevention sites in Ontario. As the challenges grew and funding did not, the Balmoral Centre went from having to turn away 1,000 people per year in 2012 to turning away 3,000 people per year in 2020.
The lack of options is contributing to an opioid-related mortality rate in Thunder Bay that’s 10 times higher than the rest of the province.
“I shudder to think what would happen if Mr. Ford gets a chance to keep cutting mental health and addictions supports,” said Horwath. “Let’s invest instead of cutting. Let’s make sure treatment is available to folks as soon as they’re ready. And let’s get Thunder Bay its fair share, including the beds, the doctors and the nurses they need to care for people coping with mental health and addictions issues here in Thunder Bay.”
“Far too many people in our community are struggling to access detox and treatment. Critically needed funding for mental health and addictions should be based on actual need. But as none of the communities are getting the support they need, Northern communities like ours are getting even less. The government needs to do what’s right and save lives by offering funding for more detox , treatment and all-round mental health and addiction support, as not only our city, but our province and country are in crisis.”