Wednesday , 6 July 2022

Teen Mental Health Clinic to Enhance Existing Services

A committee was formed in the fall of 2015 from a need to enhance mental health services in Bonnyville, the Mental Health Steering Committee. From that committee the need for better communication between mental health facilitators was identified; specifically when it came to adolescent mental health. Chantal Vallee, a Nurse Practitioner with Covenant Health in Bonnyville and lead on the project, explains the clinic will work to bring all the mental health services that are operating in the community together through a “Navigator” position.

“The model of care that was suggested, by the physician group, is similar to the well-baby clinic. Where groups collaborate together at the clinic,”Vallee explains ideally the clinic would have assessments on the patients done beforehand with counselors from the schools.  The youth mental health nurses would be at the clinic, one of the physicians or Vallee and the Navigator. The Navigator is the position the group is currently lobbying for funding from the Town, MD and School Boards.

“The teens would have had some assessments done before coming to the clinic. So, they would be assessed by AHS Mental Health Services or counselors at the schools, as appropriate to be seen at the clinic and then booked into the clinic. As a team we would look into the case and discuss what we need to do from a medical perspective, what needs to happen from an accounting perspective and what needs to happen from a treatment perspective. We would then come together with a plan for care for this particular teen.” From there Vallee says there would be a lot of follow-ups with the patient, “from there we may hand them back to their family physician for ongoing management. If they don’t have a family physician, maybe hook them up with one or keep seeing them in the clinic. It addresses all the teens, not only the ones that have family physicians.”

It’s a multi-disciplinary focus,” Vallee explains of the clinic, “the challenge with some of these cases is, the systems don’t speak well with each other. We have Mental Health Services or the ER or the walk-in clinics, there’s counselors at the schools, and then there may be some other social assistance programs involved. All of these entities are working for the best care of the teen, but there’s no way of communicating all together, aside from some phone calls here and there.”

This is bringing us together, as one voice, with a common plan and common goal, to care for the teens. We have a way of assessing, diagnosing, treating, and following in a consistent manner, for all of the cases. We’re looking at all of the elements and trying to address them all. – Chantal Vallee

“A collaborative committee was made up of stakeholders in the community; the schools, Alberta Health Services’ mental health team, Covenant Health, and myself, The Mental Health Steering Committee. The committee identified adolescent mental health as one of the issues they wanted to tackle. From that a sub-committee was formed (the Adolescent Collaborative Group).” Vallee explains at the same time a group of local physicians found out about training that was available for adolescent mental health, “specially for depression & anxiety and ADHD. There’s a group of us who decided we wanted to pursue this training and that’s when we brought the Adolescent Collaborative group, as well as the physician group together.”

The decision to go for the training lead to a bigger discussion about what to do after the training was completed, explains Vallee, “that’s when the teen mental health group came together. Actually, it was the schools who were the ones who suggested having a position of some sort to help coordinate care, because there’s no clear mechanism to do that. From the get-go the schools have been phenomenal.” Vallee says all three school boards, Northern Lights School Division, Lakeland Catholic School District, and Conseil Scolaire Centre-Est, have been instrumental in developing plans to move forward in enhancing teen mental health services in Bonnyville.

Funding for the doctors and Vallee’s position is through AHS (for Vallee Covenant Health), “it’s no different from if we saw patients at our walk-in clinics, we would just be seeing them in a different setting.” The clinic is asking for funding from the school boards, the Town and MD to fund the start-up costs and the Navigator’s position. Each group has been asked to put in $25,000 in funding per year for two years. The MD has already agreed to the funding, the Town of Bonnyville will vote on March 22nd, and the Vallee suspects because of the heavy involvement from the school boards there will be no issues with the school boards approving the funding.

Should the funding come through, the clinic is still months away from opening. The training Vallee, and other interested parties are taking is in June, so she does not suspect the clinic will be open any sooner than that. On top of  that, there’s a lot of incidentals that need to be worked out before it can open, such as where the clinic will operate out of. Vallee is very optimistic, given the feedback from the community, the group should have no troubles finding a space, for the clinic, when the time comes that they need one. “There are things we don’t know yet, because we don’t know volume. We don’t know if there’ll be full day clinics or half-day, but we do know if we build it, they will come. The need is there.” Vallee notes that the clinic could expand to more days or larger age groups, but they want to first focus on teens.

Since the news broke of the potential clinic, Vallee has received messages, phone calls, and even people stopping her at work offering to volunteer. “I have people stopping me in the hallways asking to volunteer; just people who work in our medical clinic offering to help or parents who have stopped by the clinic and offered help anyway possible. It’s been amazing.”

We’re not doing something that Mental Health Services is not doing. We’re just trying to do it efficiently, all together. Alberta Health Services and the Mental Health Services, they’ve all been doing a phenomenal job. We’re trying to support what they are doing by bringing all of the services together. – Chantal Vallee


About Jena Colbourne

Jena Colbourne is the owner of Connected Media Inc. o/a Lakeland Connect. As a founding member of the Lakeland Connect team, Jena oversees the content creation of the website and its social media presence. Armed with a marketing, management and communications background Jena enjoys the creative aspects of Lakeland Connect, as such she is able to navigate the online world with ease.

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