In Canada, approximately 13% of children and youth between the ages of 4 to 17 are living with a mental health and/or addictions disorder, which puts them at significant risk of adverse social, emotional, and behavioural outcomes. It is widely recognized that early detection and intervention are critical to reducing the long-term impact of mental health and addictions issues, yet studies show that only 31% of these children and youth receive formalized mental health services or supports.
Help-seeking is often hampered by a combination of geographical (e.g., distance to service), systemic (e.g., wait-times, limited treatment options), structural (e.g., financial, legal, cultural and community attitudes), and personal factors (e.g., lack of problem awareness and fears around confidentiality). Barriers to help-seeking also play an important role in the scope and availability of resources, as service planning at the community level is largely based on past utilization, such that only those who actually receive service get counted as “needing” service.
Family navigation programs have recently emerged as a promising intervention for improving access to care for children and youth with developmental and mental health disorders. These family-focused interventions originally stemmed from patient navigation (PN) services, which were developed as means to reduce racial and socioeconomic disparities in cancer care by supporting patients through the processes of diagnostic testing and treatment, decision-making around care options, reducing barriers to treatment, and providing timely and relevant information and support.
In 2020, the Lead Agency for Child and Youth Mental Health in Windsor-Essex (WE) identified the need for a navigation service through feedback from core service agencies, community partners, and families in the WE community. To meet this need, the Lead Agency is launching a navigation service in May, 2021, in partnership with Maryvale and the Regional Children’s Centre at HDGH.
The purpose of this research is to apply the RE-AIM framework to understand, document, and evaluate the implementation of the navigation program, identify successes and challenges in service delivery, and capture the local navigation support needs as identified by youth and families. The findings from this evaluation will help inform decisions focused on “fine tuning” the implementation to ensure the program is meeting its intended goals.