Bridging the Training Gap for Primary Care Practitioners in Child and Youth Mental Health

The need for treatment of children and adolescents with mental disorders is rising, as 75% of children and youth with mental disorders do not have access to services to address their mental health needs. Lengthy wait times for psychiatric services create a barrier to access. Primary care providers, while in a position to address the mental health needs of their patients, report feeling ill-equipped to diagnose and manage mental health disorders.

The CanREACH ON Patient-Centered Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care (PPP) Mini-Fellowship Program responds by giving community based primary care providers mental health training that includes practical and evidence-based assessment and interventions. This program uses an evidence-based approach to teach primary care doctors, pediatricians and nurse practitioners how to assess, diagnose and treat common childhood mental disorders such as childhood depression, ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder and oppositional and conduct disorders. Emphasis within the training is on the safe and effective use of psychiatric medication for children in combination with proven therapeutic assessment, engagement and community linkages.

Finding its Canadian roots in Alberta, the first Canadian licenced site, CanREACH, adopted the REACH PPP training into the Canadian context. Piloted through Alberta Health Services and initially funded through an anonymous donation, the Calgary-based team has demonstrated the need for and the success of the program, from which the Ontario CanREACH ON PPP program has been rooted.

Offered biannually in Ontario, The CanREACH ON Mini-Fellowship program is a way of bringing health care providers and knowledge together to strengthen services and build an effective and accessible system of care.