'Quick assessment is crucial'Wednesday, October 10, 2012 by: Darren Taylor
Today is the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Day.
Appropriately, the Group Health Centre is the recipient of a $40,000 grant for a one-year pilot program aimed at improving treatment for local children suffering from mental health issues.
Bell Regional Vice-President Kerri Spooner from Thunder Bay, pictured at left with Group Health Centre Child Psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Barrett (middle) and GHC Vice President Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Officer Elaine Blakeborough (right) announced the grant, funded through Bell’s Let’s Talk Community Fund, a Bell mental health initiative.
Dr. Barrett told SooToday.com: “Most of the kids we will see are 4 or 5 years old, but we will help kids up to the age of 17, who suffer from anxiety, depression, psychosis, autism, developmental delay, serious behavioral problems, serious kinds of anxiety that prevent kids from attending school.”
The program, Dr. Barrett explained, is all about the best course of treatment in the quickest amount of time.
Dr. Barrett told everyone in attendance at today’s funding announcement at the Group Health Centre, including health care professionals and administrators and community leaders “medications are a small part of treatment. An intake person will now refer children to a community agency or a pediatrician and more quickly assess the best course of treatment, to prevent hospitalization. To gather information quickly is an important part of this funding.”
Dr. Barrett said: “What will happen now (as a result of this funding) is if a referral for a child with a mental health issue comes in from a doctor, we’ll assess it and see if maybe they need to go see a community agency, maybe a pediatrician, for the more simple psychiatric problems, and I would see the more complex psychiatric problems.”
She continued that in the less complex cases “children will get sent to the appropriate place, and in the meantime we’ll give resources like a list of websites parents can go to, books they can read and things they can be doing while they are waiting to see me or a pediatrician, so it means we’re doing something while waiting to see me or a pediatrician, because sometimes it can takes months to get in to see a doctor, and that’s very stressful for the child and their families.”
The GHC interdisciplinary team involved in the project includes Dr. Barrett, one part-time pediatrician, four full-time pediatricians, a registered social worker, a registered nurse, three registered practical nurses, a secretary and a health informatics specialist.
“Before now, it was very difficult for families, to not know where to go when their children experience mental health problems," Dr. Barrett told us. "There are different agencies in town, and people don’t really know where to go. Sometimes their family doctor doesn’t really know either, so they would get referred to me, and I would find maybe I wasn’t the best person for them to see, so they would wait a long time to see me after being referred, so by that time they’ve waited and not received the services they really needed.”
“Parents can take their child to a family doctor, or if you don’t have a family doctor you might have to take the child to a walk-in clinic. For a referral to psychiatrist you need a referral. Also, if the family doctor is not sure whether to refer or not, they can just call and speak to our nurse.”
“I’m a doctor, but I don’t do therapy.”
“Before, by the time they saw me after referral I would say ‘this is the problem, the child needs this type of therapy,’ then wait months and months for a certain type of therapy, whereas if thy had known before that they needed a specific therapy, they wouldn’t have had to wait so long.”
“Now, if they do need to see me, they will see me sooner ultimately because I’m not going to be seeing everybody that gets referred to me. Before, everyone was coming to me and sometimes I would have had to say ‘this wasn’t the best referral, the child could have gone to see a pediatrician, or a community agency.”
“Now, I will get to see the more mentally troubled children sooner.”
Dr. Barrett said it isn’t known at this point if the pilot program will be a permanent one.
After the one-year pilot project is done, she explained: “We’re going to look at the data we’ve gathered, are we decreasing hospitalization or re-hospitalizations for kids, are we decreasing the time to get access to services, how does the family and patient feel about the resources. We will look at that data to see. Instinctively, it sounds this program is going to work.”
Quick assessment is crucial, Dr. Barrett emphasized.
“If you have a lot of stress in a child, it affects all kinds of areas of brain development and so the sooner we can get children the proper help, the better it is. We’re learning more about those early years, how bullying and any kind of abuse or suffering will affect kids in their ability to go to school, their social development, because of anxiety.”
She added: “There are different stressors now, for example, some of the things on the Internet, new types of bullying.”
GHC President and CEO Grant B. Walsh thanked Bell’s Kerri Spooner for the $40,000 grant, stating: “We are deeply appreciative. On behalf of the children of Sault Ste. Marie, thank you for your support.”
Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti said: “Thank you to Bell for stepping up to help the Group Health Centre to do this very important work.”
“As Mayor and as the Red Cross System Navigator, I congratulate the Group Health Centre and Bell for seeing the importance of this," said Sault Mayor Debbie Amaroso. "Many people in this community need this help for their children. We need to have them be healthy people in our community.”