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New Program to Address Critical Gap for Youth in Mental Health Crisis
Ottawa – Local mental health service providers today announced plans for a new service that will bridge the serious service gap for youth suffering from a mental health crisis and in need of intensive treatment in the community that has not been available until now. This new clinical service will help the more than 150 teenagers in the Ottawa community who fall into this gap in the mental health system every year.

The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), Ottawa Public Health (OPH), the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (The Royal) and the Youth Services Bureau (YSB) are joining forces for the first time– pooling their unique expertise and resources to offer an intensive treatment program for teenagers in crisis, outside the hospital setting.

Known as “The Bridges Project” in its planning stages, this new program will address the service gap by offering youth and families, a variety of therapy interventions focusing on their recovery and wellness. These interventions will be provided by a treatment team that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses, child and youth counselors and occupational therapists. The team will provide a seamless, cost-effective, integrated response. In addition to focusing on treatment services, Bridges can help prevent relapse and readmission to hospital through the provision of education and support services.

The Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is providing $500,000 in annual funding for the Bridges Project. The program is also supported by Ottawa Public Health and the Ontario Nursing Secretariat.

“At a time when investment in health care must be limited, we need to prioritize investment to where it can have the greatest impact,” said Yasir Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Center. “This program has the capacity to identify and respond to the needs of high risk youth in Ottawa and ultimately, has the potential to save lives, reduce the use of hospital beds, and build community capacity.”

The teens that would benefit from this program are among the most vulnerable youth in the community. They represent the most repeat visits to the Emergency room and the community based crisis services, have the most complex needs for mental health services and have the longest and most complicated admissions to the mental health in-patient units. The program supports youth aged 12 up to their 18th birthday.

Studies have shown that the earlier a person receives treatment for mental illness, the better their chances for recovery. Significant early intervention, like that offered by Bridges, can put youth on the path to wellness before their conditions worsen. This will benefit our patients and the mental health system long into the future.

While better helping the mental health of these young people, the Bridges Project will also relieve some of the pressures being placed on hospitals and offer youth a less intrusive option for receiving care. Fewer hospital stays will allow them to maintain an amount of normalcy in their lives, by using services closer to home and more easily accessible in the community.


“As a community, we are seeing unprecedented demand for mental health services,” said Alex Munter president and chief executive officer, CHEO. “It is not just the number of cases that is increasing, but also the severity of these cases. Our goal with this program is to completely change the trajectory of young peoples’ lives, forever altering both their physical and mental health as well as their life expectations.”

“This project has become a reality because a number of partners have combined efforts to achieve a common goal – to expand and improve mental health services for young people in our region,” says Chantale LeClerc, CEO of the Champlain LHIN. “In fact, the LHIN and four health provider agencies have worked together to create this innovative and crucial project for our communities. Such collaboration is necessary if we are to successfully tackle the most challenging issues of our day.”
“Through this new collaboration, youth with mental illness who are discharged from hospitals will now have a direct connection to the ongoing support and treatment that they and their families so desperately need,” said George Weber, president and chief executive officer, The Royal. “Our joint team will be able to immediately provide them with the full range of treatment services based on the expertise and resources of all four organizations.”
“This partnership provides a unique opportunity to support youth and their families in their recovery from mental illness in an effective and meaningful way”, says Councillor Diane Holmes, Chair of the Ottawa Board of Health. “Providing youth and their parents with tools and supports to prevent relapse, reduce suicide risk and re-establish healthy lifestyles and routines will help families in their critical time of need”.

“As parents and as a community, we want our children and youth to get help before they reach a full-blown crisis,” says Joanne Lowe, YSB’s executive director. “We need to invest in better continuity of care, since we know young people will have less need for intrusive and expensive services when we tackle their mental health issues early on.” 
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