Mental Illness and Addiction

What is the issue?

Current estimates show that 45% of adults with developmental disabilities also have a mental illness or addiction. Adults with developmental disabilities and mental illness or addiction need complex and highly integrated health care. They have poor physical health and often experience challenges finding their way through the health and social service systems. Currently, we do not have a good understanding of the unique needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness, and of those with developmental disabilities and addictions. Knowing more about this can help improve their health care.

How is H-CARDD helping?

The H-CARDD program aims to address this issue by answering questions like:
What do we know about addictions in adults with developmental disabilities? We have found that 6% of adults with developmental disabilities also have substance related or addiction problems. This is much higher than the percentages reported by other studies on developmental disabilities; this may be because H-CARDD includes more people with mild developmental disabilities.  It is also higher than the percent found in the general population in Canada. In addition, most of these individuals (78%) also have a mental illness.
What are the health care needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and mental illness or addiction problems? They are more likely to have chronic diseases such as diabetes or congestive heart failure compared to either adults without developmental disabilities or those with developmental disabilities but no mental illness or addiction problem. In particular, adults with developmental disabilities and addiction problems are more likely to have a respiratory illness such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
How do adults with developmental disabilities and a mental illness or addiction problem use health care services compared to other groups? Compared to adults without a developmental disabilities or those with a developmental disability but no mental illness or addiction, they are more likely to visit a medical doctor, go to the emergency department, or stay at a hospital than other groups. They are also more likely to revisit the emergency department or hospital.
The H-CARDD program builds on the vision of the Joint Policy Guideline for the Provision of Community Mental Health and Developmental Services for Adults with a Dual Diagnosis (2008).

For more information, please contact:

Independent Scientist, Provincial System Support Program
Centre for Addiction & Mental Health
Phone: 416 535 8501, Ext. 34102
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Phone: 905 721 8668, Ext. 2602

More information

Summary: get a quick overview of this study in the research snapshot A Closer Look at Mental Illness and Addictions in People with Developmental Disabilities. Snapshots are easy to understand two page summaries of H-CARDD research findings.

Report: Read the final report from our Mental Illness and Addictions Team here

Publications: for scientific journal publications about H-CARDD research, please visit our knowledge exchange section.

Intellectual and developmental disabilities and Ontario’s forensic inpatient system: A population-based cohort study

Substance-related and addictive disorders among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD): An Ontario population cohort study

Newsletter: H-CARDD contributes regularly to a newsletter with information for direct support workers published by Vita community services and HANDS Family Help Network. Read a special issue: Let's Talk About Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. This newsletter contains many links to helpful resources.

Video: watch a Town Hall presentation and discussion of the research findings on health and health care of adults in Ontario who have developmental disabilities plus a mentall illness or addiction problem.

Watch a presentation on Substance Related and Addiction Disorder in Ontario Adults with Developmental Disabilities. Presented at the CAMH Addictions Round, April 24, 2015.

Radio: listen to The Long Way Home with Dr. Yona Lunsky, at CBC radio, The Current. A documentary about the dilemmas facing those with dual diagnosis.

Health care tools: H-CARDD shares and develops tools for caregivers, clinicians and people with developmental disabilities that improve communication and information sharing in health care settings. Visit our health care resources section!

Related links: Portico, Canada's Mental Health and Addiction Network provides resources and information on dual diagnosis for clinicians, clients and families. It includes guidelines, videos, information on social support, and many practical tools.