Seeking better mental health transitions for youth

By Don Fraser, St. Catharines Standard

Mental health challenges are daunting for young people.

Depression, self-harm and emotional disturbances can require constant professional help to ensure children, and their families, are safe and that a healing plan is in place.

These issues won’t necessarily resolve themselves when a child becomes an adult, and needs new services.

Young clients and their families can be frustrated, and sometimes slip through the cracks when transitioning to adult mental-health care providers, from those that focus on youth.

With this in mind, the boards of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Niagara and Pathstone Mental Health are joining forces to fill those gaps for clients who “age out.”

Discussions are continuing at their respective boards about how they can better work together to develop services that are more seamless and responsive, to ensure continuity.

Pathstone CEO Shaun Baylis said the initiative also flows from a provincial government drive to improve access to care in that way across Ontario.

“It’s been a real gap in the system. … we need to find the means to make this transition much smoother for them,” said Baylis.

“When you have two specific locations for children and adults, there isn’t (that transfer) that can occur without developing protocols, understandings or having teams working together,” he said.

“This is what both boards are working toward, to have that collaborative spirit and continuum of care so kids can … have those services carry on for them.”

Baylis said examples of this might include crisis services or specialized housing.

George Kurzawa, executive director of CHMC – Niagara, said his organization would explore opportunities to “blend our services, so that we can provide a more seamless service for the youth.”

Among areas where co-operation is already happening is via “mobile, crisis on the street services we do with the police.” Through that, a social worker does a ride-along with a Niagara Regional Police officer in shifts that involve interactions with youth. The interventions can include crisis calls from families.

“We’re looking at closer co-operation with (those programs), so we can provide more effective and quicker resources for people,” Kurzawa said.

“Both boards are very much committed to doing better for our youth and the transitional age group.

Each board has strong representation from the family-client community it serves: “They are people who know the … system and who have experienced it, or are directly experiencing it themselves,” Kurzawa said.

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