What's New

Reorganizing services at SickKids CCMH to meet the need

By Neill Carson, Clinical Director, SickKids CCMH

This week on sickkidscmh.ca, we are celebrating Children’s Mental Health Week. For our third instalment of this five-part series, Neill Carson, Clinical Director, SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health, outlines the critical work being done in the community to meet the need for access to services that families want

In Ontario, there is a disconnect between the need for mental health services and service response. Children’s Mental Health Ontario data tells us one in five children will have a mental health concern before they reach adulthood, yet five out of six of these kids will not get help. A study I read recently put this more starkly: 90 per cent of youth who kill themselves have a mental health problem; only 50 per cent of these kids will have had contact with a mental health professional in the year before their death. During Children’s Mental Health Week, we should think about the reasons for this disconnect.

Certainly, part of the problem is access to help. This is why at SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health (SickKids CCMH) we are working hard to shorten our wait times and increase capacity. In the past year we brought our wait times down from six or seven months to less than two. I am tremendously proud of the work staff here have done to achieve that. Not only have they reinvented their processes, they have diversified their skill sets and learned to work differently. 

There is another reason for the disconnect though. Many services aren’t organized to meet the current needs of kids and families. As many as 50 per cent of the youth who are referred to our intensive residential services, for instance, decline our help when they learn that receiving treatment requires absence from home. Across the sector, we are seeing declining use of residential services while the need for day-based intensive support is going up. Also, many kids have difficulty travelling out of their communities to attend formal therapy appointments. At SickKids CCMH we have thought about this a lot. We realize families are looking for more day-based help, as opposed to residential-based help. We also know that some mental health supports should be accessible right in the communities where the kids who need help are living. 

SickKids CCMH is transforming their intensive services. Above, their Jarvis (left) and Sheppard sites.
In the year ahead, SickKids CCMH will transform our intensive services, by increasing the amount of day-based service we offer while continuing to provide short-term residential supports for those who need them. Our new service will be supported by transition workers and online guided self-help that will bring help right into the homes and lives of our clients. We will also introduce direct access mental health support in parts of the city where our prevention staff are encountering high numbers of kids with unmet mental health needs. Across the child and youth mental health sector, providers are working hard to develop services that make sense to kids and that kids find easier to use. At SickKids CCMH we are doing our part – thinking about the problems differently and coming up with new ways of working. I know we will serve more kids. I also think we will do a better job of connecting with that hard-to-reach group who never find their way to help. 
Read more about the new service delivery model ​at SickKids CCMH.