Think Tank: Exploring mental health- or addictions-related emergency department use by racialized populations in Ontario

In brief

This report highlights the presentations and main findings from a discussions that took place during a think tank event hosted by the Community of Interest (COI) for Racialized Populations and Mental Health and Addictions.

The think tank explored emergency department (ED) use for mental health- or addictions-related needs by racialized populations in Ontario. The event brought together over 120 participants from more than 80 organizations across Ontario to listen to presentations focused on four themes:

  • Factors that influence the use of EDs by racialized individuals with mental health and addictions issues, including the social factors that can affect a person’s health (social determinants of health);
  • The provincial health system;
  • The relationship between hospitals and community organizations; and
  • The ED itself.

The report also includes briefs on promising practices in Ontario that focus on the ED and racialized populations.

In this edition of Research Report Round-up, EENet’s Angela Yip provides a summary of this report. Read it below or access the PDF.

Research Report Round-ups are brief summaries of research reports, presented in a user-friendly format.

Title and link to the report: Think Tank: Exploring Mental Health-or Addictions-Related Emergency Department Use by Racialized Populations in Ontario: Highlights from the March 26, 2013 Event 
Authors: Emily Wong; Sheela Subramanian, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario; Angela Yip and Rossana Coriandoli, Evidence Exchange Network (EENet), the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; with the support of the Racialized Populations and Mental Health and Addiction Community of Interest Steering Committee members 
Date: 2014
Location: Toronto, ON

What this report is about

This report highlights the presentations and main findings from the discussions that took place during a think tank event hosted by the Community of Interest (COI) for Racialized Populations and Mental Health and Addictions. The think tank explored emergency department (ED) use for mental health- or addictions-related needs by racialized populations in Ontario.

The event brought together over 120 participants from more than 80 organizations across Ontario to listen to presentations focused on four themes: 

  • Factors that influence the use of EDs by racialized individuals with mental health and addictions issues, including the social factors that can affect a person’s health (social determinants of health);
  • The provincial health system;
  • The relationship between hospitals and community organizations; and 
  • The ED itself. 
  • The report also includes briefs on promising practices in Ontario that focus on the ED and racialized populations.

Key messages from the report include:

  • When it comes to mental health, race significantly informs people’s experiences of hospital EDs – including how, why and when they come to the ED. Race must be considered in health care policy, planning, and service delivery.
  • While some people had positive experiences in the ED, others were upset and concerned about the use of force by hospital security or police officers and about being brought to the ED involuntarily.  
  • There are important and innovative practices across Ontario that have been shown to reduce avoidable ED visits by racialized people for mental health reasons; for example, bringing mental health services to community-based health centres. There are also ways to improve experiences at the ED, such as providing peer support within the ED.
  • Many contributing factors can improve services and continuity of care for racialized or other marginalized populations, including strong institutional leadership and improved organizational capacity and resources to prioritize health equity and the needs of marginalized populations.

How this report can be used

This report can be used to promote knowledge exchange around how, why, and when racialized populations turn to the ED for mental health and addictions needs. 

Health policy and system planners can use this report to inform planning for mental health service delivery, availability, and accessibility. Specifically, the report highlights that, at the overall health system level, there is a need for improved socio-demographic data collection and use in order to ensure that policy planning considers the needs of different populations. 

Service providers and system planners can review the promising practices identified to determine further potential local collaboration and coordination between hospital, police, community organizations, and the broader community and social services sector. These innovative practices can be adapted in other communities across Ontario. 

Hospital administrators and directors can use suggestions in the report to inform the dynamics within the ED itself. Areas to consider include the effectiveness of patient/staff communication, degree of access to and collaboration with community services, and tracking of individual pathways to and beyond the ED.

Population addressed: Racialized populations in Ontario who have used the ED for mental health- and/or addictions-related (MH&A) issues. 
Type of study: Various methods were used to inform the content of this report, including: 

  • Literature review;
  • Provincial survey to identify service provider concerns and promising practices related to ED use by racialized populations;
  • Consultations with racialized people with lived experience of mental health issues;
  • Consultations with community mental health workers who work with racialized persons with lived experience;
  • A think tank event with over 120 participants and presenters.

Key words: Racialized populations, mental health, addictions, emergency department, social determinants of health 
Contact person: Zahra Ismail, Policy Analyst, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario at zismail [at] ontario [dot] cmha [dot] ca or 416-977-5580 ext. 4157 or Angela Yip, Knowledge Broker, EENet, CAMH at angela [dot] yip [at] camh [dot] ca or 416-535-8501 ext. 36046. 
Language: This report is available in English