The first service of its kind in Canada, BC Children’s Hospital’s Compass program has increased access to mental health and substance-use supports for more than 1,000 children and youth in its inaugural year
Compass is a telephone resource for community care providers who care for children and youth under the age of 25. In its first year, the focus has been on increasing use by care providers based in rural communities in the North, Interior and on Vancouver Island. More than 60 per cent of those helped have been from these regions.
Care providers based in rural communities may have limited experience supporting children and youth with complex mental health and substance use concerns.
By calling the multi-disciplinary Compass team made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers and more, they can access expert information, advice, resources and consultation services remotely, including follow-up support in more complex cases.
This improves access to health care for children or youth in their home communities. In consulting with Compass, care providers also develop skills and knowledge that may help them care for future patients.
Compass can also provide direct consultation services to youth across the province who have mental health and substance use concerns. Youth are connected to this service by care providers and it can be done in person or via telehealth.
Compass’ mandate also includes education for community care providers. The program is developing a provincial education strategy for community providers, including remote training modules like webinars.
About one in seven young people in B.C. will experience a mental illness at some point, and recent surveys show that increasing numbers of high school students in B.C. report experiencing anxiety and depression.
Most calls to Compass were for patients with multiple mental health or substance-use concerns, indicating that community providers are managing complex cases.
In approximately 20 per cent of calls made to Compass, care providers identified substance use concerns as an issue their patient is facing. A particular focus of the Compass program is treating youth with concurrent disorders – that is, mental health and substance use issues at the same time.
In more than 90 per cent of cases, care providers were given all of the information they needed to support their patient in one phone call.
Approximately 85 per cent of calls came from primary care providers, with social workers, school counsellors and others also using the program.
Providers are finding Compass useful: 23 per cent of providers have used the program to support more than one client.
“I have used the Compass program and found it to be an excellent support in caring for children and youth with mental health issues. It has given me crucial, timely access to expert guidance and consultation and has proven to be a great resource, especially for communities that historically have not had great access to this type of care,” said Dr. Ralph Tudhope, Family Physician based in Northern BC.
“We started this program with the vision of improving the quality of care for children and youth across B.C. struggling with mental health and substance use issues, particularly in rural communities. Our dual approach to providing direct support and increasing provider capacity through education means more and more youth in B.C. are getting better, faster access to the care they need. Together we are working to improve the lives of our children and youth, one call at a time,” said Dr. Jennifer Russel, Compass’s clinical director, BC Children’s Hospital.