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Making mental health services work for families

Thursday, September 22, 2016

For the past two years the Centre has worked with lead agencies across the province to consult with families. The goal was to ensure that family perspectives were included in community mental health planning and lay the groundwork for ongoing meaningful family engagement. The result, 770 family members were consulted across 18 service areas. Families identified these 8 priorities to improve mental health services:

  • Invest in peer support and navigator programs– Families need help to find information, ask the right questions and navigate the system. More opportunities to support one another and learn from families who succeeded navigating the mental health system are needed.
  • Address barriers to access – Access can be improved by providing flexible/extended hours (with crisis services available 24/7), a variety of modalities to access appointments (e.g. Skype/videoconferencing), alternate service locations (e.g. mobile services, in-home supports), and childcare during appointments.
  • Offer more in-school supports – Schools play an important role in mental health care. More collaboration between schools and local mental health agencies, and more mental health supports available in the schools is needed.
  • Strengthen mental health awareness – It is recommended that those who interact regularly with families (including teachers, doctors, etc.) need a stronger understanding of child and youth mental health and more knowledge about local services.
  • Engage the whole family in services – Services need to be family-centred and support the child/youth and families in a holistic way. Family members want to be engaged in service planning to help determine the most appropriate plan of care for the child/youth and family as a whole. Providers need to listen to and respect family concerns.
  • Ensure continuity of care Agencies need to be coordinated, whether across multiple agencies or several staff from one agency. A single point of contact for all supports is preferred to ensure consistency, non-conflicting information, and to prevent families from repeating their story. Warm transfers are preferred if a change in service providers is required. A streamlined and integrated electronic record would facilitate information-sharing between staff.
  • Offer support while on wait lists – Direction and support is needed while on wait lists before the point of crisis, as many find their situation worsens during this period of instability. This could be an opportunity to invest in peer support programming.
  • Invest in personalized care – Customized services are important to each family’s unique needs. Access to services in the family’s preferred language is required, as well as culturally-sensitive services and supports. They also need flexibility on service location (e.g. home, school, office) as it is critical when addressing the needs of the child/youth and family.

Click here to see the full report.


family engagementconsultationscommunity mental health plans

Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health

695 Industrial Avenue, Ottawa Ontario, K1G 0Z1
Tel.: 613-737-2297   Fax: 613-738-4894


Please note: We do not provide mental health advice, counselling or treatment.
If you, or if someone you know is in crisis right now, please call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.

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