TORONTO, June 8, 2016 – Among youth, the prevalence of mental health and addiction disorders is as high as 20 per cent, yet as few as one in six affected youth will access appropriate treatment. Three new clinics geared to youth aged 11 to 25 will soon open their doors, offering a range of services on a walk-in basis, including brief solution-focused therapy, peer support, system navigation, access to Internet-based tools, and onsite access to psychiatric services.
“These clinics will be a one-stop shop, providing immediate access to evidence-based mental health care in the community,” says Dr. Peter Szatmari, Chief of the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative at CAMH, SickKids, and the University of Toronto. “By co-locating service providers from hospital, primary care and community agencies in a youth-friendly setting we can better address barriers that are most apparent for youth.”
This walk-in style service model is tailored to young people and matches services offered to the range of needs youth experience. Youth who need access to a psychiatrist, for example, can be fast tracked to see one, while others who may benefit more from peer support will be connected to that service. The clinics are located in Toronto at ‘What’s up’ walk-in at Scarborough’s East Metro Youth Services, Delisle Youth Services (at Yonge & Eglington) and a new ‘What’s up’ walk-in at the South East Toronto Family Health Team (at Danforth & Woodbine). The Scarborough location is now open for service with the other two locations to follow in July.
These new services will be compared to the usual treatment youth receive in hospital-based, outpatient mental health clinics in Toronto. The randomized control trial will be led by the McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health at CAMH and will focus on young people age 14 to 18. “We expect to see better outcomes for youth, including improved functioning, decreased symptoms and better satisfaction with the services,” says Dr. Joanna Henderson, clinician scientist and Director of the McCain Centre at CAMH. “We also anticipate a decrease in service wait-times, which is really important.”
Young people themselves have played a major role in how this project was developed, which types of clinical services are offered, and how the research team will evaluate success. Olivia Heffernan, Youth Engagement Facilitator at CAMH and co-investigator of the research trial, has been involved from the beginning. “We know that young people aren’t necessarily going to fit into the mold service providers set. We need to have a voice so that we can get the care that’s right for us,” she says. “In this project, we’ve set out to change the youth mental health system and that’s empowering.”
While the first step is to implement and evaluate these Toronto-based services, the team hopes the new model can be replicated in other communities, improving access across the mental health system.
“The thing many people in this field haven’t done is ask young people, ‘what are your goals, what are your needs?’ Without understanding youth experience of mental illness, it’s hard to organize services in an informed way,” says Dr. Henderson. “Having youth at the table is crucial to help us ask the right questions and look at outcomes that are meaningful to them.”
This project was developed through YouthCan IMPACT Toronto, a collaborative initiative that brings together CAMH, SickKids Centre for Brain & Mental Health, Michael Garron Hospital, East Metro Youth Services, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, LOFT Community Services, Delisle Youth Services and The Sashbear Foundation. The research project is funded by Ontario SPOR Support Unit.