FREDERICTON (GNB) – A newly-formed youth mental health initiative called ACCESS NB was officially launched today at Government House. The launch was co-ordinated by the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate and Dr. Ashok Malla, of the Douglas Institute for Youth Mental Health at McGill University, the principal applicant for the national project.

ACCESS NB is being funded as part of a Canada-wide project, ACCESS, that won a national competition created by the Graham Boeckh Foundation and the Canadian Institute for Health Research. The $25 million grant was awarded to the group presenting the best ideas and capacity for transforming youth mental health services across the country over a span of five years.

New Brunswick is one of 12 ACCESS sites across Canada and is a special demonstration project, as the only provincial site within the national initiative.

“The transformational aspect of this program is that it will directly empower young mental health patients not only to be the drivers of their own path to recovery, but the drivers of a policy and social change that will benefit all Canadians,” said Kyle MacNevin, a member of the ACCESS National Youth Advisory Council.

Within the province, ACCESS NB is intended to improve youth engagement in and awareness of mental health issues, lead to early identification of youth between the ages of 11 and 25 in need of support and provide timely access to evidence-based, youth-friendly mental healthcare for the entire range of mental health problems.

“The need for such a transformation is great,” said Inspector Rick Shaw, with the RCMP “J” Division and chair of the executive committee for the ACCESS NB initiative. “More than 75 per cent of mental disorders first appear in early adolescence and young adulthood, but only 20-to-25 per cent of youth with mental health challenges in Canada receive appropriate help.”

Left untreated, these disorders can have negative consequences including school/work failure, hospitalization, homelessness, legal problems, violence or suicide.

“ACCESS NB will also put the emphasis on a child’s right to equal access to health care and the rights of children and youth with disabilities to ‘enjoy a full and decent life, in conditions which ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's active participation in the community’, within the meaning of Article 23 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Child and Youth Advocate Norm Bossé.

This research program is one of several Strategic Patient Oriented Research initiatives funded by Canadian Institute for Health Research, seeking to engage patients and communities in improving the health of all Canadians. ACCESS NB’s proposed transformation consists of four main parts:

  • developing safe spaces for youth with mental health issues to empower their voice and provide improved access to care;
  • providing mental health training for all sectors of society to better identify and support youth with mental health needs;
  • knowledge sharing both within the province and throughout the broader national network to ensure that New Brunswick youth benefit from the best clinical care practices; and
  • evaluating the results of the changes to youth mental healthcare.

“The ACCESS NB initiative is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how academic and clinical research can meaningfully support policy changes and service delivery that will directly improve the lives of young people,” said Lise Dubois, PhD, dean of Graduate Studies at the Université de Moncton.

The project will capitalize upon existing reforms underway in New Brunswick to significantly transform mental health care and improve child and youth wellbeing. This includes diverting youth with mental health problems from the criminal justice system and providing integrated service delivery across government departments as recommended in the advocate’s Ashley Smith and Connecting the Dots reports (2008), through improved mental health screening tools, increased use of family group conferencing, better mental health literacy training in New Brunswick schools, a provincial Recovery Model of Care and the construction of a provincial treatment centre for youth with complex needs.