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Hospitals across the province have seen an increase in severe eating disorders among children and youth during the pandemic due to increased isolation, exposure to social media and unhealthy eating and exercise habits fueled by stress .

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Ontario’s mini-budget, released Thursday, includes $ 8.1 million in new money for emergency care for children and youth with eating disorders.

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The money will be shared by members of the Children’s Health Coalition, which includes children’s hospitals and other organizations, but $ 4.4 million will go to CHEO.

“We are beyond ecstasy,” said Joanne Lowe, CHEO vice president of mental health and addiction and executive director of the Ottawa Youth Services Bureau.

“The government has recognized that young people with eating disorders and children in general have been affected by the pandemic.”

CHEO has the capacity to treat six young people with eating disorders at any time. But the number of patients who have had to be hospitalized has risen sharply during the pandemic, Lowe said. In the past six weeks, up to 25 patients with eating disorders have been treated in hospital.

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Eating disorders have the highest death rate of any mental health problem affecting children and youth, she said.

Hospitals across the province have seen an increase in severe eating disorders among children and youth during the pandemic due to increased isolation, exposure to social media, and unhealthy eating and physical habits fueled by stress, a the province said in its announcement Thursday.

The acuity levels and volume of eating disorder patients at CHEO have increased since the start of the pandemic, Lowe said. At CHEO, the new funding will go to day programs and in-hospital treatment, as needed.

Children’s health care providers across the province have seen an increase in the intensity and severity of mental illness in children during the pandemic.

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Eating disorder emergency room visits in children’s hospitals have increased 1.5 to 2.6 times, and hospitalizations have increased 1.5 to 1.9 times, according to the Children’s Health Coalition. Even before the pandemic, emergency room visits and hospitalizations for children and youth with mental health problems nearly doubled between 2006-2007 and 2018-2019.

The funding announced Thursday will last until March 2022, Lowe said.

The Children’s Health Coalition aims to work with government on a longer-term plan to build community mental health programs for earlier intervention and to withdraw from acute hospital care once medical needs have stabilized.

The province’s mini-budget also recognized that the pandemic has put pressure on mental health services for post-secondary students, and announced an additional $ 8.7 million for mental health support in colleges and universities for a total of $ 27.9 million.

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