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Audio interview: Filling the gap in mental health care

Stacey Espinet, PhD

In Ontario, children and adolescents can wait for up to a year before accessing mental health services, and may have to travel hours outside of their community. Waiting for care can cause additional distress for children and youth who may already be experiencing severe mental illness.

In 2015, the Physician Training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (PTCAP) program was implemented to provide hope and relief for communities with high rates of suicide and substance abuse, by giving youth faster access to mental health care closer to home.

PTCAP was developed and implemented by Dr. Margaret Steele, vice dean, Hospital and Interfaculty Relations, and professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Paediatrics, and Family Medicine; Lorelei Lingard, PhD, director, Centre for Education Research & Innovation (CERI); and Stacey Espinet, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, CERI and Department of Psychiatry and Sandra Gotovac, PhD Candidate, Department of Psychiatry. The program is funded by the Children's Health Foundation.
 
While geared toward family physicians, the program provides training sessions for nurse practitioners and residents, as well as social workers and nurses, on how to treat young patients with mental health issues.
 
"The program is designed to help health-care practitioners feel more confident in providing mental health care," said Espinet. "We want to give them the support they need, especially in remote communities where they may be more isolated professionally and have less options for referrals. In that case, it's important to provide that frontline care in the primary health care setting."
 
The PTCAP team is also focused on how they can tailor and improve the program, evaluating the sessions and attendee confidence and skills through surveys, standardized patient interviews and families who have accessed care from trained physicians.
 
Ultimately, the program has been created to provide families with a system designed to support their needs.
 
"The ideal goal is to have families of children with mental health issues know where to start and not feel overwhelmed by a difficult system," said Espinet. "We want families to feel confident that they can get the support they need when they see their family physician."
 
Espinet is proud that the program is designed to evolve and change based on the feedback from each community. "This is a unique program," said Espinet. "We're hoping that we can continue to find funding to deliver this program to more rural and remote areas in Ontario."


July 2015

Researchers from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry are stepping in to fill a gap in mental health training, which stems from a lack of psychiatrists across Canada.

They have developed a program which is focused on primary health care providers, in rural and remote communities, who work with children and adolescents.

The goal of the program is to provide hope and relief for communities with high rates of suicide and substance abuse, by giving youth faster access to mental health care closer to home.

The program was developed and implemented by Dr. Margaret Steele, vice dean, Hospital and Interfaculty Relations, and professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Paediatrics, and Family Medicine; Lorelei Lingard, PhD, director, Centre for Education Research & Innovation (CERI); and Stacey Espinet, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, CERI and Department of Psychiatry.

Listen to the full interview with Espinet and Sandra Gotovac, research associate for the program, here.