Access to care for 12,000 people announced

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Dr. Joanna Henderson speaks at the May 3 announcement of Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario.

Up to 12,000 young people across the province will have access to services for mental illness, including substance use, in new community hubs, thanks to a new initiative led by Dr. Joanna Henderson, Director of the Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health.

Through six new sites and 10 in total, Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) will provide young people ages 12 to 25 with one-stop access to mental health assessments, treatment for addictions and substance use, therapy and counselling, peer and family support and referrals to psychiatrists, as well as education, employment and housing services.

“Through these one-stop hubs, youth will be able to access the kinds of services they want, when they need them, because young people will have played a role in creating them,” says Dr. Henderson, YWHO Executive Director, explaining that the initiative was created through years of consultation with youth, family members, clinicians and others about system and service changes to improve services for youth.

“Young people across the province will continue to be engaged with service and system planning in their local communities; they’ll actually be active in planning the hubs, which is different than adults planning them and plunking services into communities. That’s part of the system transformation and that distinguishes this from other approaches,” Dr. Henderson says

The McCain Centre’s Youth Engagement Initiative team was involved throughout the Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario process, participating in initial focus groups, hosting consultations with young people from across the province, and working with the youth and family panels to review and discuss applications.

“These are the same young people that will use these hubs – they know what works, what doesn’t work, what can be made better,” says Emma McCann, a Youth Engagement Facilitator. “Hopefully, they will see their negative experiences with a fractured system contribute to a change for the better – a change that reaches beyond themselves, their loved ones, and their immediate community. 

The six new hubs will be located in Eastern Champlain (Cornwall area), Haliburton, Kenora, Malton, North Simcoe and Niagara Region. The province is already supporting four youth wellness hubs, including three in Toronto and one in Chatham. There was tremendous interest in the new hubs, with many communities applying for just such few spots. 

“The interest really spoke to how this model resonates with young people, family members and service providers,” says Dr. Henderson.

YWHO builds and expands on a number of community walk-in centres developed across Canada, including the McCain Centre-supported YouthCan IMPACT

 as well as ACCESS Open Minds, Foundry, and others. YWHO enables the McCain Centre and its partners to deepen its understanding of how the hubs fare in a range of communities. 

“Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario gives us the opportunity to take a look at the youth hub model model in different contexts reflecting Ontario’s cultural and geographic diversity to really examine closely issues of feasibility and the value it brings to communities,” says Dr. Henderson.

YWHO was also guided by and will continue to be supported by CAMH’s Provincial System Support Program and the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health of CHEO. This backbone team will provide operational leadership and support for hub sites in their planning, implementation, quality improvement, and youth and family engagement.

This team is committed to engaging groups of diverse youth, such as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, LGBTQ+, Francophone, immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural, racialized youth and youth with disabilities. 

Announced by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services on May 3, YWHO is part of Ontario’s commitment to deliver more accessible and better integrated care, with an investment of $2.1 billion that will make it easier to access services through a local school, family doctor's office or community-based organization. Budget 2018 commits to the creation of 15 additional youth wellness hubs across the province.  

“Youth wellness hubs will play an important role in early intervention, which we know is crucial,” says Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services. “The hubs will be a complement to the work already underway to help young people get the mental health and addictions supports they need faster, closer to home and under one roof.” 

Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario is also supported by the Graham Boeckh Foundation, Jamie and Patsy Anderson, the Balsam Foundation and RBC Foundation.


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