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The Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMH) Program at Children’s Hospital has seen a significant increase not only in the number of young people requiring assessment and treatment, but also in the seriousness of their conditions when they come to us.

Our program has finite capacity and has been struggling to meet the overwhelming demand that has emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in unacceptable wait times. Since 2019, wait times in our catchment area have increased by a factor of four; young people who seek help are scheduled to wait approximately 24 months for care – a delay that far exceeds clinical guidelines even for cases of moderate clinical urgency. Excessive wait times are associated with increased patient distress and family strain.

To alleviate strain on our program and reduce wait times, the team at Children’s Hospital has introduced an innovation to our model of care for children and youth with anxiety by introducing the GET-Care Clinic (Get Evidence-based Treatment Clinic). This clinic model has been developed by Drs. Eichstedt, Singh and Collins to increase timely access to evidence-based assessment and group cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for children, adolescents and their families. The model identifies children and youth who present at intake with anxiety and who could potentially benefit from group-based CBT. Care providers offer them a standardized diagnostic interview and resulting triage directly into group therapy.

The CAMH Program at Children’s Hospital treats more than 1,500 young people each year, delivering more than 13,000 treatment sessions. Although only a subset of our patients will directly access the GET-Care Clinic, we anticipate that all patients will benefit from this innovation to some extent because it will alleviate strain on our teams, speed access for patients in other programs (since they’ll be assessed more quickly as GET-Care Clinic patients exit the queue and begin therapy) and further enhance our team’s capacity for interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. Indeed, if the GET-Care Clinic is successful in reducing wait times for children and youth with anxiety, our program will look to expand this physician-led model to other treatment streams in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program.

With the generous investment from Family of Support, we continue to seek ways to provide access to the right care, at the right time. In the case of young people with significant anxiety, this means providing access to therapy within weeks, not years, of the day when young people and their families first seek help.

Note: Due a range of issues including a clinical leadership change at Children’s Hospital, the program we reported on last year, the psychosis-focused Prospect Program, was discontinued; the hospital is offering its patients appropriate care through other channels. No funds from Family of Support were directed to Prospect in 2021; only the GET-Care Clinic received Sobeys support.