What is the Centre?

The new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health will provide three crucial new programs—a Walk-in Clinic, Intensive Treatment and a Day Hospital—to help young people under the age of 18 who are struggling with serious and urgent mental health needs. By giving families greater access to specialized mental health support in the community, they will be better equipped to manage issues before they become full-blown crises. The Centre will help reduce the need for hospitalization.

Why do we need this?

The demand for child and adolescent mental health services is higher than the current health system can accommodate, particularly for families in crisis. While a hospital emergency department is designed mainly to triage and treat children with physical ailments, the new Centre will be dedicated to meeting the mental health needs of kids and teens and give them direct access to acute outpatient services to help them manage their concerns and ideally prevent hospitalization.

Who will it help?

Two of the services at the Centre will support youth under the age of 18 who are in need of more acute services—specifically those who need intensive treatment during the day and are well enough to stay with their families overnight. The third service—a Walk-in Clinic—is open to all children and adolescents with mental health concerns. These services will help families better identify, develop treatment plans for and manage mental health issues before they escalate into crises.

How will this make things easier for families?

The Centre will improve access for families. Not only will they be able to get immediate specialized mental health assessments and therapy at the Walk-in Clinic, those who need it can be referred right away for further same day or next day intensive treatments on site as well. The Centre will be purpose-built, and designed to be welcoming and family-friendly. Building it in the community in a non-institutional centralized facility will encourage more young people and families to seek help in a timely manner.

Why build the Centre in the community?

Leading mental health systems in Australia, England, Ireland and other parts of the world have shown that providing mental health services in a community-based non-institutional setting makes these services more accessible and acceptable to young people. Just as importantly, families have also expressed a desire for mental health services that are not in an institution-like setting. Many believe hospitals add to a negative stigma and deter young people from seeking treatment.

Why is the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation involved?

The decision to create a new Centre grew out of concerns around increasing pressure for acute care services within the inpatient units and the Emergency Departments at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and other hospitals across the city. Our Foundation is fortunate to have supporters who want to be part of the solution for this issue – people very sympathetic to both the mental health cause and the children’s hospital.

Recognizing there are many agencies and services in the community working hard to provide care across the continuum, we believe mental health is such a significant issue that we all need to play our part and work together to reduce suffering for kids and families. We are proud to be another voice for mental health – to help further reduce stigma and find effective solutions for families in our community.

How are the Centre services different than those already available in the community?

While there are many services provided through the AHS Child & Adolescent Addiction, Mental Health and Psychiatry Program (CAAMHPP) and other community agencies, the Centre is designed to fill a significant gap in acute outpatient services. For the most part, agencies in the community refer youth with a higher severity of illness and/or a safety risk to hospital Emergency Departments – currently the only option for treating acute mental health crises. Once it opens, agencies will be able to refer young people to the Centre, which will provide a much-needed alternative for families in a less-institutionalized community-based environment.

Will the Centre be a hospital?

The Centre will not be a hospital. In fact, it will be designed to be warm, inviting and less institutional to encourage greater access to care. No patients will be staying overnight. Ambulances will only be at the Centre if a young person needs immediate transport to a hospital Emergency Department or inpatient unit.

When will it open?

Ground-breaking for the Centre took place in November of 2019 and the anticipated opening is Fall 2022.

Will there be any research or training at the Centre?

The new Centre will be the most robust research-intensive community-based mental health care facility for young people in Canada. In partnership with the University of Calgary, the Centre will be a research and training hub that will provide opportunities for inter-professional studies and mental health training at all levels. Research will be integrated into all three services because in the same way science moves medicine forward for physical illnesses, it is a crucial part of identifying new and better therapies for mental health issues.

The next generation of specialists who will benefit from training at the Centre will include: medical, education, nursing, psychology and social work students; psychiatry, pediatric and family medicine residents; sub-specialty residents in developmental pediatrics and adolescent medicine, child and adolescent psychiatry; and trainees in allied disciplines including occupational and recreation therapy.

Will the Centre be a part of the Alberta Children's Hospital?

The Centre will work in close partnership with the Alberta Children’s Hospital. It will be integrated into the continuum of services provided by the AHS Child and Adolescent Addiction, Mental Health and Psychiatry Program (CAAMHPP). Depending on the complexity of their conditions, some children and families may rely on care from both the hospital and the Centre. Many mental health specialists will also work at both sites.

How much will it cost?

Our community is generously contributing $50 million to fund the capital for the project, innovative mental health research, as well as patient and family-centred initiatives that will ensure the Centre meets the same standards of excellence as the Alberta Children's Hospital and Rotary Flames House.