May 6, 2022 | Mental Health, Leadership
I have always worked in healthcare and most of my career has been spent in mental health. I began working in Children and Youth Mental Health when HDGH was first applying to become the Lead Agency. I fell in love with the work and went from working on the application to being the operational lead supporting the work from a project management perspective. I had a great mentor in Dr. Mary Broga who was the Executive Lead at the time. The strategic system-level work was a perfect fit for me and things evolved from there.
A lead agency is an organization that both delivers Child and Youth Mental Health Services and is responsible for working with other providers to ensure that the right services are in place within the community.
Lead Agencies work with other agencies that receive funding for children and youth mental health services and other community partners to improve the local C&Y mental health system. Together with our partners, we develop plans in which we identify several key priorities aimed at improving access and/or services. We then work together to achieve the goals and objectives outlined in those plans. We are also often responsible for making recommendations regarding funding allocations and where new investment should go to address system pressures or gaps.
This work is so important because mental health is health and it all begins in childhood, in fact, it begins even before. Continually assessing the needs of the children, youth and families of our community and ensuring the system is responsive to those needs is key. The unique aspect of the Lead Agency model is that it allows for those closest to the work – with boots on the ground - to assess the gaps and challenges and to be able to collaborate with system partners in an attempt to respond to those gaps and challenges.
The next three years will be about strengthening our partnerships so that we can improve pathways into and through services. Increasing access to the right kind of care, at the right time, is essential. All of this needs to be done using data and evidence to drive our decisions. We also need to make sure that the voices of those with lived experience have an opportunity to not only have their voices heard but to be part of co-creating solutions with us as they are equal partners in the building of a strong system for Children and Youth Mental Health.
WEConnectKids is about helping families who don’t know where to go for help get connected to the right mental health and addiction services. One of our goals as a community is to make it easier for families to find the help that they need. When you are struggling, or your child is struggling, the last thing that you need is to have to call several different places before you find the right program. The WEConnectKids team will take that burden off of those seeking help and work with our system partners, work to get folks connected to the right services. That being said, it’s important the community knows that this new central access doesn’t mean that families can’t contact any of our children and youth mental health organizations directly. It’s not meant to create an added layer but instead assist those who don’t know where to start and get connected right away to the right services.
As a Lead Agency, we not only have a responsibility to our local community, but we also work closely with colleagues across the province to improve the quality of and access to CYMH services across Ontario.
Collaborative, family-centred, and system-focused.
Collaborative because we cannot meet the needs nor improve our system, our community by working in silos. Working together with our partners is the only way to move the system forward.
Family-centred as we are working to create a better system based on the needs of children, youth and families. By working with those with lived experience, we hope to learn from them and co-create programs and system improvements that make sense for families.
System-focused because we are focused on breaking down silos. Focused on the broader continuum of care and ensuring that the various core services are in place across the system and that they work together to ensure continuity and that when required, services are wrapped around the family providing a greater, integrated plan of care.
There is a bit of the perfect, or not so perfect storm, that is happening right now in the CYMH sector. As a result of the pandemic, we are seeing the needs increasing while at the same time organizations across the province are struggling with significant Health Human Resource issues. Recruiting and retaining qualified staff has been a longstanding issue in the sector but has recently risen to a point of crisis. This increased need coupled with a lack of clinical staff is resulting in increased wait times for services. The system is seeking new and innovative ways to deliver care that will enable greater throughput and reduced wait-times but more will need to be done.
I’m very proud to be launching WEConnectKids. It’s something that our CYMH partners have been working towards for several years. The first step was getting the technology in place to support the referrals. Once we did that, we had to make sure we had the pathways, protocols and partnerships in place to make it work. I’m very grateful to our partners at Children First, Maryvale, Family Respite and weCHC Youth Addictions Program for sticking with the vision and continuing to work together to make this a reality for our community.
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