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Hudak calls for changes to mental health care

Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario leader Tim Hudak spoke to the media about gridlock at Toronto City Hall in this October 16, 2012 file photo.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are calling for better integration of mental illness treatment into the health care system, and for the province to create more spots in treatment programs.

In the latest in a series of policy announcements, leader Tim Hudak said the system should better co-ordinate between programs to create lifelong treatment plans for people dealing with mental illness. Mental health assesments should also be performed more routinely, he said.

"People suffering from mental illness suffer in silence, often stigmatised, blamed and misunderstood. They deserve compassionate and effective care in our system," he said Tuesday at a downtown Toronto youth clinic.

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The Tories also proposed moving youth mental illness programs out of the Ministry of Children and Youth and into the regular health care system.

"The problem in Ontario right now is that we don't have the capacity to treat the many children and youth who need service," said health critic Christine Elliott.

She said the province could save money by providing more services closer to home, rather than sending patients out of country for treatment.

The Liberals, however, said they are already tackling the issue, pointing to $257 million the government has committed to children's mental health. Over the last five years, the government said, it has also reduced the number of patients receiving residential treatment outside the country, at a cost saving of $5 million.

"We're making historic investments in children's mental health that will help over 50,000 children and their families get the care that they need," Health Minister Deb Matthews said in a statement, adding that "there's nothing that Tim Hudak and Christine Elliott said today that we're not already making pretty important progress on."

Mr. Hudak has spent the last few months releasing policy papers. He said Tuesday that he pitched premier-designate Kathleen Wynne on his ideas at a meeting last week, and that he hoped to meet with her again in the next few days. Mental health is one area in which the pair may find some common ground.

Ms. Wynne's minority Liberals must secure the support of at least one opposition party to pass a budget and continue governing in the upcoming session of the legislature.

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