Young people with mental illness will have greater access to care thanks to a $25-million groundbreaking study on delivery of mental health treatment in Canada.
Chatham-Kent is one of six communities taking part in Access Canada’s five-year research project funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Graham Boeckh Foundation (GBF) via Transformational Research in Adolescent Mental Health (TRAM).
The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) and the Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent (CMHA LK) will take the lead on the project, although it will encompass groups across the community who work with young people.
Paula Reaume-Zimmer, integrated program director, CKHA & CMHA, said the local involvement is a direct result of the efforts of Dr. Ranjith Chandrasena, interim chief of staff and chief of psychiatry.
“We were recognized for our efforts to improve access to treatment for young people and we were thrilled to be invited to participate,” she said.
Reaume-Zimmer said current treatment is “fragmented” and officials are aware that they aren’t reaching many of those at risk.
“Mental illness and physical illnesses are similar in that early treatment and intervention make treatment easier and more effective,” she said. “If young people don’t know where to turn or if we can’t co-ordinate treatment, the chances are greater that the disease will progress.”
Reaume-Zimmer said a major portion of the effort will be toward identifying at-risk youth, so it’s important that as many community groups as possible be involved.
“Young people may come in contact with many different groups, so it is key that everyone is on board, knows what resources we have and can direct young people appropriately.
To that end, the CKHA, mental health and addictions program; CMHA, Lambton Kent; Chatham-Kent Children’s Services; Chatham-Kent Police Service, Mobile HELP Team; Erie St. Clair Regional Early Intervention Program (Windsor Essex, Chatham-Kent and Sarnia Lambton) and Community Care Access Centre MH&A resource nurses providing services in primary and secondary schools are involved.
Reaume-Zimmer said the longstanding support of Chatham Rotarians has been a key.
“Rotarians sponsored a program called Today Not Tomorrow, which did a comprehensive study of mental health related needs of youth in the community. Much of those findings will be used going forward,” Reaume-Zimmer said.