Innovative Work Leads to Better Mental Health and Addictions Care for Children, Youth and Families

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pictured Dr. Sharon Clark and Karen Carey photo Shaina Luck/CBC

Children and teenagers who need mental health and addictions help are getting better care, faster, as a result of innovative work at the IWK Health Centre.

Over the last four years, access to community mental health and addictions care at the IWK has improved by 75 per cent. Young people who need emergency care are seen immediately and nearly all cases assessed as needing urgent care are seen in under four days. For non-urgent care, 72 per cent are seen within 28 days and the average wait is 22 days.

The improvements are the result of new innovative practices that have led to faster access to the IWK’s community mental health and addictions services. This work has meant families accessing care, frontline staff and senior staff working together and sharing input to identify where changes could be made to improve care.

“Our system has grown and changed in unbelievable ways over the past eight years,” says Dr. Sharon Clark, advanced practice leader, IWK Mental Health and Addictions program. “This has been a true team effort. As clinicians, we are striving to be transparent in our processes and engaging with families in new and innovative ways. It’s exciting.”

The work focuses on four areas: access, quality of care, productivity and staff satisfaction. All have seen positive results:

  • 75 per cent improvement in wait times
  • 98 per cent of patients and families report satisfaction in the quality of care
  • 82 per cent of staff report high levels of satisfaction
  • 90 per cent of appointments are attended, due to changes to IWK’s referral and intake system which fills cancelled appointments

“The IWK Mental Health and Addictions staff were absolutely wonderful,” says Suzanne MacDonald, the mother of an IWK patient.  “They were kind, caring, and professional. I was invited into a team-based, focused approach, that while sympathetic to my child’s condition, affects it had on our family, they were first of mind to support my daughter’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Nursing staff demonstrated leadership in managing my child’s illness while providing treatment during some very stressful days.”

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should call the 24/7 toll-free provincial Mental Health Crisis Line at 1-888-429-8167. The line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults.