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The Provincial Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health at CHEO



August 2009

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Community Mobilization

Communities can be described in many different ways. While often described by geography, groups of like-minded people or organizations often share a kinship that transcends municipal or neighbourhood boundaries. For example, groups from around the province may be linked by a common interest in a specific mental illness or intervention approach. Or, they may be united around a specific goal that requires diverse expertise to achieve.

Regardless of how a community is identified, its potential to make change is enormous. By mobilizing diverse groups around a common goal, the Centre is helping these communities deliver transformational changes that no single individual or group could achieve on its own. Our mobilization activities include grants and awards, strategic partnerships, communities of practice and a new credible knowledge initiative. We invite you to read about them below or visit our website for more information.

Community Mobilization Awards

The Centre recognizes that mental health services must work hand-in-hand with other sectors to achieve the common goal of an integrated system that works for Ontario children and youth. Integration requires resources, flexibility, commitment and a fundamental shift in the way we think about our work.

In January 2008, the Centre launched its Community Mobilization awards to help communities tackle the significant barriers that can stall meaningful integration efforts. After three successful pilot projects, community mobilization became a permanent part of our grants and awards program in January 2009, when an additional four projects kicked off.

A Time for Action: Mobilizing around Autism Spectrum Disorders in Dufferin County

Over the last 10 years, it has been clearly documented that people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are particularly vulnerable to mental health problems. The pressing issue in Dufferin County is the absence of mental health services for children and youth living with ASD. Historically, individuals living with autism in Dufferin County have been supported through the developmental service stream, and there has been little training or opportunity for sharing of knowledge across sectors. Dufferin Child and Family Services – both children’s mental health and developmental support services – and Kerry’s Place Autism Services have come together to develop relationships, share expertise and work collaboratively to review the effectiveness of what others in Ontario and other regions are doing and to plan for how services can be delivered better in Dufferin County.

Battling Bullying in the Halton Community

Bullying is a significant problem in Canada, and has been identified as a concern in the Halton community. Many prevention strategies have been developed to address this problem. Although these strategies are effective, they are limited since they focus on preventing bullying in specific contexts. Bullying can occur in a wide variety of contexts, and in order to more effectively prevent it, a community-wide response needs to be adopted. Many of these efforts at prevention have also focused on youth themselves. Since bullying is a systemic rather than individual-level problem, prevention efforts can only be successful if initiatives target youth, parents, teachers and other adults throughout the community. The Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK) is collaborating with Our Community Cares, Nelson Youth Centres and other affected community members to identify the different ways bullying affects the community. They will develop a comprehensive, evidence-based community action plan to better prevent bullying in Halton region and in so doing, reduce the negative mental health outcomes that are associated with it.  

Mobilizing front-line service providers to support each other in Toronto

Due to the recent rise in the number of violent deaths among Toronto youth, many of the affected families and communities need increased supports. Front-line workers charged with providing these supports are experiencing trauma, vicarious trauma and grief themselves, and are therefore challenged to effectively provide service. As a result, the people working with and best able to connect with youth are victims of the same hopelessness they are trying to mitigate. A number of networks, headed by the Centre for Social Innovation and the Frontline Partners with Youth Network (FPYN), have come together to develop and deliver support for front-line workers by providing safe spaces to discuss issues outside of organizations and arrange support between and with organizations and sectors. This innovative initiative will allow front line workers to stay in the field longer, develop more meaningful relationships with young people and ultimately better support youth, families and communities. 

Sioux Lookout Community Action Partnership for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

In the Sandy Lake First Nations community, children and youth in Grades 1, 3, 5 and 7 were included in an assessment process that discovered that nearly a quarter of them had a profile consistent with a diagnosis of FASD. The Sioux Lookout Community Action Partnership for FASD is creating an action plan that will lead to the development of a comprehensive service network aimed at effectively identifying and responding to the unique needs of children, youth and families affected by FASD in Sioux Lookout. The partnership is a coalition of 13 organizations/groups from various sectors, including community associations, schools and police. In elaborating their action plan, the group will establish common vision, consider the strengths and weaknesses of the services currently available and implement a plan that addresses the issues.

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In the underresourced area of child and youth mental health, there is a growing awareness that in order to be addressed effectively, complex issues require a diverse set of skills and perspectives. Add to this an increased acknowledgement of the importance of practice-based evidence as a complement to evidence-based practice, and you have a unique response to the mental health issues challenging children, youth and caregivers: communities of practice (CoPs).

CoPs are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something that they do, and interact regularly to learn how to do it better. CoPs are rooted in the idea that we learn best when we learn with others, and when knowledge and action are connected. In child and youth mental health, CoPs are unique, ongoing collaborations where people create and share knowledge to help change the way services are delivered. The three main elements of a CoP are

  1. A shared interest that provides a common focus

  2. The community

  3. The practice

Here at the Centre, we are helping to create and support CoPs as a way of working towards a full continuum of effective and accessible mental health services for children and youth. For example, we have brought together a group of service providers working on evaluating Triple P programs in Ontario. This CoP – called the Triple P Network – now boasts more than 50 members and is linked with groups doing similar work across the globe. To facilitate the Network's activities, the Centre hosts an online portal members can use to develop an evaluation framework, participate in e-discussions about successes and challenges related to their work and share common outcome measures and indicators.

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Helping families make sense of services

Ontario Families struggling with mental health issues are faced with navigating a confusing network of services with limited information to help them find a path that makes sense for them. The Centre recognized this urgent need as a valuable opportunity to bring Ontario leaders together to collectively support children, youth, parents and caregivers in their search for effective and appropriate information and supports.

The Child and Youth Mental Health Information Network (CYMHIN) was created to develop useful resources that draw on the special expertise each member brings to the table. In addition to the Centre, the CYMHIN includes Children’s Mental Health Ontario, The Offord Centre for Child Studies,, the Hospital for Sick Children, Crossroads Children’s Centre and the E-Best program at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

CYMHIN recently released its first pair of products, one-page resources that introduce families to child and youth mental health services in Ontario and describe what to expect throughout the treatment process.

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Decision-making in child and youth mental health requires an efficient and effective method for developing recommendations that are based on credible knowledge. A new process adopted by the Centre is informed by two sources, scientific evidence and practice-based evidence, which reflects service providers’ real world experience. The inclusion of practice-based evidence allows for communities to act as agents of their own change. These communities are composed of individuals in a field of practice with varying perspectives and can include service providers, researchers, patients, parents, and health economists .

While current approaches to developing these recommendations typically include evidence from one source or the other but the Centre’s credible knowledge approach is an objective method of combining the two.

The Centre recently pilot-tested the Grading Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach, a novel method for this field. GRADE has an explicit methodology that relies on input from scientific and practice.

The pilot project showed that GRADE is an effective and practical approach to making evidence-based recommendations in child and youth mental health in a fairly rapid and simple way. The process mobilized the community to be involved in determining the fit between the evidence base for an intervention and its use in clinical practice. The Centre plans to move forward with another application of the Credible Knowledge process in the near future. Communities will continue to play an important part in selecting questions and developing recommendations that are based on science and practice. For information contact the Centre.

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Young people across the province represent an important community bound together by their experiences, challenges, successes and unlimited potential to shape Ontario’s future. Unleashing the power of mobilized youth will allow them to confidently embrace their role as current and future leaders in the movement for change in child and youth mental health.

The Centre recognizes and believes in the power of youth to take a leading role in transforming mental health services and erasing the harmful stigma associated with mental health problems. We support and partner with youth through various youth engagement activities including the Dare to Dream program The New Mentality, both of which are growing and building momentum in Ontario and beyond.

Find out more about these innovative youth-led initiatives online by visiting:

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Upcoming deadlines for the grants and awards program …

  • Individual and Group Professional Development Awards - Submit anytime (Open Call)
  • Dare to Dream Program – October 31, 2009

For more information about these or other funding opportunities visit us online at

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The Centre’s program evaluation online learning modules are now available in French. To access these innovative and practical resources at your convenience in either official language, visit

As part of our ongoing efforts to inform evidence-based planning and decision-making, the Centre has added fourth policy-ready paper to its website. Getting our acts together: Interagency collaborations in child and youth mental health was prepared in partnership with the Centre by Dr. Katherine Boydell, Heather Bullock and Dr. Paula Goering of the Health Systems Research and Consulting Unit of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. You can view or print any of the Centre’s policy-ready papers here.

The Centre is pleased to announce the arrival of director of strategic planning and operations, Amy Boudreau, who has returned from her year-long maternity leave. At the same time, it is with sadness that we announce the departure of Colleen Hannewyk, who had the daunting task of filling Amy’s shoes for the past year. Please join us in thanking Colleen for her strong leadership and tireless work.

Welcome back, Amy!

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