ACCESS Open Minds Chatham-Kent Launches a Mental Health Hub Designed By Youth, For Youth

ACCESS Open Minds Chatham-Kent Launches a Mental Health Hub Designed By Youth, For Youth

CHATHAM-KENT: May 9, 2016 - A first in Ontario youth mental health program designed by youth, for youth, has officially opened its doors in Chatham-Kent. ACCESS Open Minds (ACCESS) welcomed over 300 guests to its open house today in celebration of this new mental health delivery hub that aims to connect Canadians aged 11 to 25 years with mental health services, in one location. ACCESS is a pan-Canadian research network, the first to have been launched under Canada’s Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). It is funded through a partnership between the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and the Graham Boeckh Foundation. This unique $25 million five-year research project is led by Nominated Principal Investigator Dr. Ashok Malla and Scientific-Clinical Director Srividya Iyer. The goal of ACCESS is to develop and evaluate an evidence-informed, sustainable and scalable model for mental health service delivery that positively impacts and “transforms” youth mental health outcomes in Canada.  

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) and the Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent (CMHA LK) established a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) last year to co-design both the physical and virtual spaces of ACCESS. This dedicated group of volunteers between the ages of 11 and 25 shared their experiences and participated in activities to explore the emotions and barriers youth face. Chaz Langford, 15, a member of the YAC, expressed his desire to change youth mental health outcomes. “I really want to see the ball keep rolling to bring awareness to mental illness and eliminate the stigma. I hope spaces like this will continue to pop-up across North America, because it’s a serious issue facing society right now.”

In Canada, one-in-five people experience a mental illness in their lifetime. 75 per cent of mental health problems and illnesses begin prior to the age of 25, and more than 50 per cent begin between the ages of 11 and 25. Unfortunately, adolescents and youth have the least access to mental healthcare, as existing services are designed mainly for younger children and older adults. ACCESS seeks to help youth who are experiencing all mental health difficulties, from those of the mildest forms to the most serious mental illnesses. Youth and their families have clearly communicated their dissatisfaction with their experiences in accessing fragmented and siloed services at a time when they need it most, often going door to door to various agencies which rarely communicate with each other, if at all. ACCESS is designed to eliminate this frustration, and bring youth mental health service providers including partners in the housing, education and social services together, to re-create a youth mental health service delivery model that reduces that navigating and promptly offers services that address their mental health needs. A model that makes sense!

 ACCESS’ youth mental health services transformation is being implemented and evaluated at 12 sites throughout Canada, with Chatham-Kent as host to the first and only site in Ontario. With a track record of research excellence, innovative solutions and collaboration, CKHA and CMHA LK’s integrated mental health program has built a strong network of partners in research and clinical practice. It has also benefitted from community support provided through the Rotary of Club of Chatham to establish youth mental health programs in absence of provincial funding. It was through these experiences and relationships that the two organizations were invited into discussions about the ACCESS network application. As a result, CKHA and CMHA LK’s integrated mental health program was chosen as one of 12 sites across Canada to launch the ACCESS network. “Chatham-Kent’s deep commitment to youth mental health services is providing a role model for communities across Canada,” said Ian Boeckh, President of the Graham Boeckh Foundation.

 “As one of the 12 sites across Canada, we in Chatham-Kent are extremely fortunate to have an opportunity to lead the way in transforming youth mental health services in our community. Over the past 18 months, our community members, including service providers, educators, youth, families and concerned community partners have invested hundreds of hours in working together and challenging the status quo which has resulted in a network of individuals who have united in a cause that is very near and dear to our hearts. There is synergy, refreshed partnerships and a strong community commitment to our CK youth and their families. It’s a privilege to be part of something that we consider will be a true game changer,” said Paula Reaume-Zimmer, Integrated Vice President, Mental Health & Addictions Services, CKHA, CMHA Lambton-Kent and Bluewater Health.

This initiative implements new, proven approaches to identify youth who are in need of services and provide them with quality, timely and appropriate care by accessing a pan-Canadian network that unites patients, family representatives, policy makers, service providers and community organizations. “Programs for Early Intervention in psychosis have shown that early intervention is the key to improve clinical and social outcomes for youth with serious mental health problems,” said the project’s lead investigator Dr. Ashok Malla. “ACCESS is breaking new ground in that young people experiencing the whole range of mild to serious mental health problems will now be able to consult a youth-friendly service designed through collaboration between youth, families and service providers and access a trained professional at sites like Chatham-Kent without a referral, be evaluated within 72 hours in a setting that is suitable for them, and receive customized care quickly if they need it.”

ACCESS will bring additional youth mental health resources to the community with local partners that include:

  • Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Mental Health & Addictions Program
  • Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent
  • Chatham-Kent Children’s Services
  • Chatham-Kent Police Service
  • Mobile HELP Team
  • Family Service Kent
  • Municipality of Chatham-Kent
  • Lambton Kent District School Board & St. Clair Catholic District School Board
  • Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) MH&A resource nurses providing services in primary and secondary schools

Located at 335 King Street West in Chatham, Ontario, ACCESS’ centralized space was chosen in partnership with a Facilities Planning Group that included youth, family members and community stakeholders, and will offer youth and their families from across the municipality of Chatham-Kent a safe and welcoming space to seek help and resources for mental health concerns. ACCESS is a strong demonstration of how innovative partnerships and collaboration have a significant influence on systems planning and transformation of the delivery of healthcare services.

For more information, call 519.437.6329
Visit ACCESS Open Minds Chatham-Kent’s official website: 

To view the ACCESS Open Minds Chatham-Kent launch video, click here.



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