ACCESS Open Minds, a new clinic for children and young adults with mental health and addictions issues, held its official launch in Edmonton today. Staff and advocates for local youth mental health-oriented services gathered to champion the new initiative, and to celebrate programming that will provide youth the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

ACCESS OM streamlines mental health services for youth aged 11-25, operating out of its location at the Bill Rees YMCA and additional youth hubs at Centre High, iHuman, and the Armoury (YESS). ACCESS OM aims to facilitate easier navigation of community mental health services, support better outcomes for youth, and reduce presentations to hospital emergency departments. The project is jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Graham Boeckh Foundation (GBF).

Various speakers educated the crowd on the reasoning behind and goals of the initiative.

Dr. Adam Abba-Aji, a psychiatrist at ACCESS OM, stressed the critical nature of mental health services, and how the health care system has struggled to offer the right services to every individual in a timely manner. ACCESS OM addresses an identified weakness in the system; it is a place where anyone can come through the door and know that they won’t be turned away.

We cannot claim to say we have all the answers to all the questions, but we will do our best to meet the challenges of all patients who come through the door.
Dr. Abba Aji

Dr. Kathryn Todd, representing Alberta Health Services, informed guests that community-based mental health services are a priority for the province, and that building a healthy community-in body and in mind-is a responsibility shared by everyone. Collaboration is vital to long-term success.

Further, continuity of care was identified as a key aspect of the program. “This clinic is really needs-based, not age-based,” said program manager Katherine Hay. “If a client comes to us at age 17, and is making progress with ongoing support, his care team shouldn’t change in a year when he officially becomes an adult.”

The launch also highlighted the roles of the program’s youth and family advisers, Brandon Kelly and Kathy Shettell, who told their personal stories of accessing mental health services and the challenges they previously faced to get treatment for themselves or loved ones. Having advisers on hand with firsthand experience of the mental health care system in Edmonton will help new patients accessing services feel like they are not alone, and that it is okay to need help. As Brandon said “People with a mental illness, like someone with broken bones, should not start lifting weights right away.”

ACCESS OM represents an exciting new approach to youth mental health services in Edmonton and we look forward to helping them strengthen their programming.