Alison Freeland & Karen TatarynThe Ottawa Citizen
Date Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012
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Re: Suicidal teen's family fears for his life as he awaits help, Sept. 27.
The Citizen recently highlighted the issue of young people who are outgrowing child and youth mental-health services but having a hard time getting adult services because of availability and wait times.
This is not an issue that is unique to Ottawa, nor is it a new problem.
Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in demand on the mental health system overall due to more awareness and vigilance in our community regarding recognizing and seeking treatment for mental health issues. In addition, Ontario has also focused on funding early intervention programs because the sooner a mental illness is treated, the better the chances for recovery. All together, this means that there are more people seeking treatment and many of them at a younger age.
To address this need, it is incumbent upon all care providers to provide the most efficient system we can. In Ottawa, we have put a program in place specifically to help ensure that the youth who need us don't fall through the cracks.
The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and The Royal Ottawa Hospital have established a new initiative to help the most severely ill youth and their families through the transition to adult mental health services. The initiative takes referrals from hospitals as well as community mental health services and our co-ordinator works with the youth and the family to link them to the adult services they need.
Mental health care means different things for different people; each case is unique so the transition from child to adult services is unique.
For some, it may mean a specialized in-patient program while for others it may mean support through a community organization or care which is managed by a family physician in consultation with a mental health specialist. This is why the transitional youth service has an advisory board in place through which we partner with a range of community service providers who are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible.
Good mental health care isn't just about what we do individually as institutions, but what we do collectively as a health system to support the ongoing needs of our community through different phases of life and different stages of illness. The program has been successful so far in improving continuity of care for those who need it most. The Champlain Local Health Integration Network has made a good beginning investment to co-ordinate services and offer intensive case management to young people between the ages 16 and 24.
Can we do better? Yes. Would more funding help? Of course it would. But until that becomes a reality, those of us entrusted with the mental health care of this community are committed to working together and with families to deliver the best care to everyone who needs it, when they need it.
Alison Freeland, MD, Associate Chief of Psychiatry, The Royal Ottawa Hospital
Karen Tataryn, Regional Director, Specialized Psychiatric and Mental Health Services for Children and Youth at CHEO and The Royal, Co-chairs of the Transitional Youth Advisory Committee.
(Please note that CMHO staff does not reply to comments that are posted on news stories.)