As the Executive Director of CMHA Niagara, I receive regular incident reports informing me of unusual or challenging client situations. These reports provide us with an opportunity to develop better supports for our clients as we continuously strive to improve the quality of our services.  Recently many of our reports refer to youth between the ages of 15 and 29 who suffer not only from mental illness but equally suffer from the vestiges of a system that has many gaps and is unable to support them in a coherent manner. Everyone is doing their best but we are failing our youth.

Providing temporary hospitalization or Safe Bed treatment for a youth in jeopardy of self-harm or harm to others, and returning them to their same dysfunctional environment is not conducive to good mental health. Transferring clients between various services is also not very helpful. However, in too many cases, we have no other options.

According to the Annual Report of Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Council, people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and addictions than any other age group. Yet at the same time, they are experiencing a failure of the system on many levels. A 2009 report from CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) states that, “Our review of the literature indicates clearly that when you integrate services and agencies, you find that children, youth, and their families experience enhanced access to services, increased community-based services, more timely assessment and referral and improved satisfaction … Research has found that it costs more up front to do it, but there are some cost savings over the long term. Many authors are quick to point out that costs are offset by gains in quality of care and the experience of children, youth, and their families.”

At CMHA Niagara we are pursuing a potential partnership for the benefit of our youth and families who live with mental illness. As our web notice states,  this initiative is about the next generation of delivering high quality and effective services and programs to the clients and families that need them. It is about ensuring there are fewer “gaps” in the system.