Earlier this month, Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services announced the Ontario province’s approval for the development of more wellness facilities geared to help adolescents and young adults with mental health, drug and alcohol addictions. The move is part of a larger 2-year plan enhancing an existing platform that provides support to the youth in these neighborhoods as a pathway to achieve greater wellbeing. This initiative is part-prevention and part-treatment for people ages 12 to 25 years of age but will impact their families and communities. Does the youth drug addiction program serve as a model for what could be or should be in the United States? Given our countries’ similar challenges in the drug war, it might be worth consideration.
Addiction: Personal Problem or Social Issue
The stigmas that exist surrounding substance addictions not only skew how the addict is perceived but what solutions should be provided. The reason I preface the word “should” is because it eludes to opinion and judgment which is exactly what stigmas are based on.
- If you believe that drug or alcohol addiction is purely a self-imposed condition created by choice then, more than likely, you also feel that payment for treating the condition should solely rest on the individual.
- However, if you look at addiction as a disease, citing science-based evidence, perhaps you consider it a societal dilemma and as such, treatment should be made available through publicly-funded programs.
Whether you align more with theory number 1 or 2 above, there is a cost to each.
Canada’s Higher Taxes Allow for More Free Healthcare Programs
Socialized medicine does have its perks. Canadian citizens receive healthcare through their tax system and as such, they don’t receive the same tax breaks we do in the U.S. but each person is guaranteed health benefits. The free Canadian healthcare is much like U.S. Medicare. The quality of that care and the timeliness of access to it is an entirely different matter. Here in the United States, not all of us have the same level of healthcare if at all.
For people seeking treatment for drug addiction in America, the choices are many yet few. For the wealthy, there are cash pay options to varied programs available across the country. For people who have PPO or HMO insurance plans, some rehab centers partner with those providers so that patients will only need to pay a small percentage of the overall cost. For the less fortunate, there are government-funded healthcare programs accepted by a few facilities but usually for short-term drug detox treatment. And the rate of recidivism back to drug use is quite high – 90 percent for heroin users, for example.
Who Should Pay to Fix our Drug Problem
The great conundrum: should government offer more options for drug treatment, recovery and, just as important, prevention programs? One more thought… our prescription drug and heroin epidemic is due, in part, to our government oversight and medical community’s negligence. Who should pay for where we are today?
The Youth in Ontario Will Be Given the Life Skills Needed Early On
The wellness hubs coming to Ontario are a collaborative effort between government, community agencies and schools. The centers are part of a four-year, $2.1 billion investment providing easier access to addiction treatment and mental health services for people that need it. The funding allocated specifically for mental health youth programs is $570 million. The area’s 2018 budget allots for a total of 21 new wellness hubs throughout Ontario.
The need for these centers has been a long time coming. Psychological assessments and research studies have led decision-makers to better understand how mental conditions and the predisposition to addictions arise in its people and what can be done to effectively treat the problem and minimize the risks for others.
70% of adults with mental conditions had symptoms during their youth.
Supporting the wellness hubs and other emotional well-being initiatives is parallel to the Long-Term Care’s provincial Mental Health and Addictions Leadership Advisory Council, the people who recommended the new program. The Council’s representatives are comprised of mental health and addiction experts and others who have experienced the very challenges that its constituents are facing today.
What Canadian Teenagers Have that U.S. Teenagers Don’t
For families dealing with children who are exhibiting signs of mental illness such as anxiety or depressive disorders, behavioral abnormalities or drug and alcohol addictions, the wellness hubs will be a welcome respite providing sanctuary and safe spaces for 12,000 local youth.
Some of the types of therapies and services available to Canadian youth in Ontario will include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family counseling
- Mental health assessment
- Drug and alcohol treatment
- Medical care
- Free prescription drugs for those 25 or younger
- Employment services
- Education services
- Housing services
- Free preschool childcare (ages 2½ to Kindergarten)
In conjunction with these single-stop wellness facilities, secondary schools will increase their staff of mental healthcare workers and include curricula that focus on learning social-emotional life skills so that communities and the children who live there are better equipped to cope with past trauma and challenges they currently face.
Finger-Pointing Is a Stall Tactic to Avoid a Solution
The drug crisis in North America has many legs and there’s enough blame to go around as to how it began, how it’s still being fed and the drug trend forecasts to come. What each person can do to help stop the problem is to recognize whether there’s an issue in your household and deal with it. Also, talk to your local leaders, State or Provincial legislatures and let them know how you feel and what you believe would be a positive course of action moving forward.
Keeping silent about drug and alcohol addiction can be misperceived as saying “It’s all okay.” Because it isn’t.
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