What is the system challenge?

Many Canadian communities have seen a dramatic increase in the number of youth seeking care for mental health and addiction challenges. This increasing demand for care has placed a strain on affected youth and their families, stretched resources, and lengthened wait times for treatment. At the same time, youth and families are not always aware of the services and supports that are available in their community, or may not know which services would be most helpful for them. For example, when seeking assistance, youth who may benefit most from community-based care may go to the closest hospital’s emergency department because they are unaware of appropriate community services or community services are unavailable in their area (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2015).

What are we doing about it?

Recognizing an opportunity for hospital and community services to work together to improve care for youth with mental health and/or addictions needs, the London Service Collaborative, supported by the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, established an Emergency Department to Community Services Youth Transition Protocol.

This intervention ensures that youth with mental health and/or addiction needs who seek help at the emergency department but are best suited for community-based care are supported to quickly access the services they need. Connecting youth with the right kind of community supports can, in turn, help reduce unnecessary use of the emergency department in the future.

In partnership with local youth and mindyourmind, a non-profit national mental health program that co-develops innovative resources for youth, emerging adults, and the professionals who serve them, the Collaborative also developed Be Safe, a mobile app designed to help youth manage mental health and addiction crises and easily find local supports.

The Be Safe app:

  • allows users to create a digital safety plan;
  • informs users about mental health and addiction resources in their local community;
  • directs users to the best options for their needs though a decision-making aid;
  • creates a personal 'get help script' that helps users find the words to reach out when they’re in need; and
  • empowers the user to reach out safely.
?What's this?

Full Implementation

The Emergency Department to Community Services Youth Transitions Protocol was successfully implemented, and the intervention is now self-sustaining under the guidance of an Oversight Committee comprised of former members of the Service Collaborative.

The Be Safe app has been replicated at multiple sites around the Province with information about local resources.

How do we know it works?


number of youth referred to community services from the LHSC Pediatric ER between April 2015 and September 2016


Be Safe user interaction sessions from 2014 through 2016

In order to be relevent we need (youth) at all of our tables . . . planning, development, implementation, and evaluation.

— Adult Service Collaborative member

As a member of the London Service Collaborative, I learned a lot about making change at the system level.

— Youth Service Collaborative member

The Be Safe resource was so successful in the London-Middlesex community that it has since expanded to multiple communities across the province. The youth-adult partnership model used in the development of Be Safe was also viewed as a successful engagement model, with value for both youth and adult participants.

Who was involved?

The Service Collaborative brought together over 50 members including youth, children’s mental health and addiction workers and physicians.

Next steps

The Oversight Committee continues to monitor the Youth Transitions Protocol, identifying where action is needed to support sustainability.


For more information, please contact

Beth Powell, Implementation Specialist