Epilepsy Ontario submitted a funding request to the provincial government ahead of the Spring 2021 Budget and we are continuing to push for Ministry of Health funding for community epilepsy education and support programs. The full text of the submission can be found here.
Approximately 100,000 people in Ontario live with epilepsy, with 6000 new cases diagnosed every year. Annually there are over 20,000 visits to Ontario’s Emergency Departments by people with epilepsy following seizures, over 50% of which are likely unnecessary. As Ontario moves to address the hospital procedures backlog caused by COVID-19 now is the time to ensure that avoidable hospital visits are not straining capacity.
Ontario’s 14 Community Epilepsy Agencies provide education and support programs that improve quality of life for people living epilepsy and the families. A key component of these education programs is reducing unnecessary Emergency Department visits by training people with epilepsy, and those around them, on when a seizure is (and is not) a medical emergency. Epilepsy education programs have been shown to significantly reduce the number of Emergency Department visits, as well as the number and length of inpatient admissions from the ED, reducing healthcare costs.
Community Epilepsy Agencies also provide longer programs that support mental health for a population that is often already isolated and is 71% more likely to have a mental health issue in their lifetime. By addressing issues like depression, anxiety, and isolation, Community Epilepsy Agencies can improve client mental health and reduce usage and costs throughout the healthcare system.
COVID-19 has challenged Community Epilepsy Agencies to innovate in how they deliver programs. They have quickly adopted a remote delivery model and are increasingly networking their programs across agencies to maximize the impact with their strained resources. While their programs reduce healthcare usage and costs, these agencies continue to rely on charitable fundraising, leaving many programs and organizations at risk in the economic wake of COVID-19. Even under normal circumstance, agencies do not serve nearly as many people as they could if they had the proper resources, and parts of Ontario do not have a local epilepsy agency.
The health and financial benefits for the province, as well as clients and local agencies, means this funding must be considered a priority.
With adequate funding for epilepsy education and support programs, the province can achieve 3 priority objectives:
- Reducing unnecessary hospital usage through patient education, especially critical while the hospitals struggle to reduce the procedure backlog caused by COVID-19;
- Supporting the mental health of an at-risk population; and
- Reducing healthcare costs.
An investment of $2.8 million per year, for four years, to fund programs at Ontario’s Community Epilepsy Agencies will not only pay for itself in reduced healthcare costs, it will contribute an additional $9.7 million in net savings by 2025, while reducing hospital and other healthcare usage ahead of future COVID-19 waves, improving client mental health, and adapting epilepsy programs for remote delivery