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Family Navigation Project launches

Jun 18, 2014

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Today, Sunnybrook launched a first of its kind navigational service to guide and support families who have youth struggling with mental health and addictions concerns.

Sunnybrook’s Family Navigation Project is a new call-in and email program that partners “navigators” (clinically trained health professionals) with youth who are experiencing mental health and addictions struggles, and their families, to guide them through the complex GTA mental healthcare system, and connect them to the right services.

“Families don’t know where to go or how to find the services their children need. Parents have told us they’ve waited months for help, only to be told they’re in the wrong line,” says Dr. Anthony Levitt, medical director and co-founder of the new Family Navigation Project at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “With the Family Navigation Project, there is no wrong line. It gives them a way to start and a path to follow in their journey to recovery, with someone there to support them along the way.”

Nearly 70 per cent of mental health and addiction issues have their onset in adolescence, and without timely and appropriate care, these concerns frequently develop into lifelong struggles that can drastically impact individual and family health, quality of life and productivity, as well as place significant burden on the healthcare system.

“Timing is of critical importance in finding the right treatment program for young people struggling with mental health challenges and yet only one in five of these young Canadians gets access to the specialized care and treatment they need,” says Jeanne Foot, the Chair of the Parent Advisory Council, a group that help to set up the Family Navigation Project.

The goal of the project is to improve access to treatment for youth aged 13 to 26, and to support the families so they receive the help they need. The navigators are experts who can provide tailored insight into the mental health and addiction systems. The navigator follows up with the family throughout the journey, to monitor and ensure that the process is working. The project is also building relationships with the various mental health services and providers so they are able to provide families with insightful “first-hand” information about the resources from clinical and parent perspectives.

Youth or their families in the GTA can call the FNP phone line at 1-800-380-9FNP or email familynavigation@sunnybrook.ca and expect to get a response back within one business day.

Dr Levitt and Naomi Algate

Full media release

TORONTO, ON (June 18, 2014) – Today, Sunnybrook launched a first of its kind navigational service to guide and support families who have youth struggling with mental health and addictions concerns.

Sunnybrook’s Family Navigation Project is a new call-in and email program that partners “navigators” (clinically trained health professionals) with youth who are experiencing mental health and addictions struggles, and their families, to guide them through the complex GTA mental healthcare system, and connect them to the right services.

“Families don’t know where to go or how to find the services their children need. Parents have told us they’ve waited months for help, only to be told they’re in the wrong line,” says Dr. Anthony Levitt, medical director and co-founder of the new Family Navigation Project at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “With the Family Navigation Project, there is no wrong line. It gives them a way to start and a path to follow in their journey to recovery, with someone there to support them along the way.”

Nearly 70 per cent of mental health and addiction issues have their onset in adolescence, and without timely and appropriate care, these concerns frequently develop into lifelong struggles that can drastically impact individual and family health, quality of life and productivity, as well as place significant burden on the healthcare system.

“Timing is of critical importance in finding the right treatment program for young people struggling with mental health challenges and yet only one in five of these young Canadians gets access to the specialized care and treatment they need,” says Jeanne Foot, the Chair of the Parent Advisory Council, a group that help to set up the Family Navigation Project.

Some of these families will have already sought services or programs but may be on multiple waiting lists for months, or have not yet found the appropriate service they need.

“Often the problems will have gone on for some time, and parents will reach out to us because they want to avoid losing more time or making further missteps,” says Naomi Algate, one of the navigators. “In many situations, problems will have developed quickly and seemingly out of nowhere, and will be severe. Parents who have little experience with the mental health or addictions service system will seek our assistance because they are facing a serious situation, require assistance on an urgent basis, and have no clear pathway to follow and don’t know who to contact or where to start.”

The goal of the project is to improve access to treatment for youth aged 13 to 26, and to support the families so they receive the help they need. The navigators are experts who can provide tailored insight into the mental health and addiction systems. The navigator follows up with the family throughout the journey, to monitor and ensure that the process is working. The project is also building relationships with the various mental health services and providers so they are able to provide families with insightful “first-hand” information about the resources from clinical and parent perspectives.

“For my family, the Family Navigation Project meant ongoing support, communication and a phenomenal wealth of resources geared to our daughter’s age and needs, and a plan that was workable for everybody,” says Lynn, a parent of a teen currently undergoing treatment through coordination and monitoring by the service. “This helped us focus our energy. Our navigator has had a very active and persistent correspondence with our family. We used a number of the resources identified to look at some short-term situations for when our daughter arrived home, and she’s participating now in a fairly high-support live-in program. I don’t know that we would have found it without the Family Navigation Project. While it is said that this kind of problem requires ‘one day at a time’, we are finding that sometimes it requires ‘one moment at a time’ and it is something we just have to continue to work at all of the time.”

Inspired and informed by families in need, Dr. Levitt partnered with a group of impassioned parents to create the project. Parents have guided every step in the design and implementation of the project. As a result of their dedication and commitment, as well as the funding and support from RBC and the RBC Run for the Kids, the FNP has been met with overwhelming demand since it started in November 2013 and has already assisted hundreds of families. The Project currently serves the Greater Toronto Area, but there are plans to expand the service to across Ontario.

Youth or their families in the GTA can call the FNP phone line at 1-800-380-9FNP or email familynavigation@sunnybrook.ca and expect to get a response back within one business day.

The Family Navigation Project is not a crisis response line; people who find themselves or their family member in an emergency situation must call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency room.

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Media Contact:

Nadia Norcia Radovini

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

416.480.4040

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