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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Honouring International Youth Day: CAMH’s Child, Youth and Emerging Adult Program

Toronto, August 12, 2016 - Recognizing the importance of youth mental health and pressing issues worldwide, the World Health Organization has designated August 12 as International Youth Day. At CAMH, much is being done in support of younger clients who are experiencing mental illness, substance misuse and homelessness.

Most recently, CAMH announced its Child, Youth and Emerging Adult Program (CYEAP). As part of our ongoing clinical transformation, the CYEAP integrates our inpatient and outpatient Child, Youth and Family mental health and concurrent disorder services, Early Intervention services for psychosis, Adult Neurodevelopmental Services and the three Centres of Innovation: the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child Youth and Family Mental Health, the Slaight Family Centre for Youth in Transition and the Cundill Centre for Child and Youth Depression.

Leadership committee membersLeadership committee for new youth services (L to R): Dr. Kristin Cleverly, Dr. Aristotle Voineskos, Lisa Duggan, Dr. Andrea Levinson, Tracey MacArthur, Dr. Joanna Henderson, Dr. Jan Malat, Chris Bartha, Dr. Paul Kuryack, Dr. David Wiljer, Dr. Sean Kidd, Dr. Susan MacKenzie.

Absent: Dr. Peter Szatmari, Dr. Crystal Baluyuk, Dr. Stephen Sokolov, and Dr. Tony George.

We sat down with Christina Bartha, Executive Director of CAMH’s Child, Youth and Emerging Adults Program to talk about the importance of providing services for youth and emerging adults.

From your perspective, what is CAMH’s role in the child and youth system?

As an academic health science hospital that provides clinical care, education, research, and supports system design and advances in public policy, CAMH is in the unique position to inform and influence innovation and progress in all aspects of care related to children, youth and young adults.

With 70 per cent of clients in the adult mental health system having had their first experience of mental health difficulties prior to the age of 24, and many prior to the age of 17, we play a leadership role in promoting more developmentally informed, evidence based approaches to working with this population.

There are many important differences in providing care to younger populations, but a key difference is the degree to which young people need to be engaged not only in informing their own treatment plans but in co-developing with service providers, the models and approaches they feel will be most effective in addressing their mental health challenges.

What are some of the key challenges youth face in accessing mental health services?

In a word – ACCESS to developmentally informed services and treatments that reflect how they want to engage with service providers. This includes things as straightforward as hours and location of services to more complex issues related to how they want to receive treatments and the way they want to engage in relationships with professional providers.

In terms of the services we provide, why is it important to focus on transition-aged youth?

Historically, our service models have been divided between children (defined as up to age 17) and adults (defined as 18 to 65 +). At age 17, young people have been expected to jump from developmentally informed child and youth models to the adult model, which provides less support and often less flexible services based on expectations that at age 18 young people have developed to their full adult potential.

In reality, young people continue to grow and develop towards their potential well into their twenties and importantly, young people who experience mental health challenges may experience obstacles to healthy development that require continued developmentally sensitive supports into early adulthood. When these are not provided, young people fall through the cracks of our system and don’t successfully “transition” and manage the next stage of development.

We have seen many of these young people experience deterioration in their mental health because the level of support they needed was suddenly unavailable to them.

What is most significant about combining CAMH services to form the CYEAP? How will this new program better meet the needs of this growing client population?

CYEAP is unique in that it provides services to clients age five into their mid to late 20’s. Its goal is to ensure each major point of transition is supported ensuring a young person does not fall through the cracks when being transferred between services within CAMH, or from CAMH to the community.

The program also has an historic opportunity to leverage the resources across CAMH that focus on children and young people; we envision establishing more evidence based integrated care pathways that will inform and advance care across the mental health system, advancing our leadership role in educating the next generation of practitioners in the most current models of care informed by a powerful research program already established through the McCain, Slaight and Cundill Centres.

Working with our provincial system partners and policy leaders at CAMH we want to have a big positive impact on services of the future. It is an exciting time to be working in this field and I am inspired by the dedication and commitment of our staff, our clinical and scientific leaders, the senior leaders of CAMH and our Foundation, and most of all, our clients and their families.

Since the CYEAP’s inception in June 2016, what have been some of the biggest milestones?

In a short period of time, we can say we’re already improving pathways of care for clients by enhancing the linkages and processes between Access CAMH, our Emergency Department, Concurrent Youth Services and Early Intervention Services. Wait times for assessment have been improved across children’s mental health, youth concurrent disorders and Adult Neurodevelopmental Services.

The most recent change took place in July with our Early Intervention Service Assessment Clinic integration. Clients are now seen within seven days of referral, and sooner if identified as requiring urgent or rapid access to care.

In addition, the YouthCan IMPACT initiative was launched, partnering with community-based services to bring tertiary care to integrated care, youth mental health clinics in the community.

A strategic planning process is now well underway and we look forward to announcing our vision, priorities and plans in the coming months.

 

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