Care Pathways in Infant and Early Mental Health

Care pathways guide children and families to, through and out of care ensuring that they are matched with the best services, at the right time and in the most appropriate format for the family. In collaboration with the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (now the Knowledge Institute for Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions), and in partnership with community-based, cross-sectoral groups of professionals, IEMHP coordinates and pilots a series of workshops that focus on services and supports for young children from birth to age 6, and aim at unravelling the care and service pathways that can be developed to support infant and early mental health in these pilot communities.

This initiative focuses on services and supports for young children from birth to age 6 and the care pathways we can develop to support infant and early mental health in your community.  Care pathways guide children and families to, through and out of care ensuring that they are matched with the best service, at the right time and in the most appropriate format for the family.

Together, these projects highlight the importance of:
  • ensuring high-quality, evidence-based information for service providers across sectors
  • developing clear care pathways for young Ontarians experiencing mental health challenges, regardless of the sector in which these issues present themselves
  • using a planned implementation approach to ensure evidence-based service delivery
 

THE PILOT


The Infant and Early Mental Health Care Pathways pilot project was born out of the findings from the Beyond Building Blocks: Investing in the lifelong mental health of Ontario’s 3-6 year olds paper. This brief highlights the unique mental health and social-emotional challenges faced by young children and the impact these challenges may have on their optimal development. One of the key recommendations from the paper is that families of infants and young children need clear pathways to navigate and access the appropriate programs and services for themselves and their children. The goal of the pilot was to create care pathways that guide children and families to, though, and out of care, ensuring that they are matched with the best services at the right time, and in the most appropriate format for the child and family. 

In the Fall of 2019 and the Winter of 2020, IEMHP and the Knowledge Institute met with 3 communities; the City of Hamilton, Simcoe County and Hastings and Prince Edward Counties, to break down silos, and build pathways that would better address the needs of children and their families seeking access to mental health and social-emotional supports. We invited leaders from various sectors (Public Health, Early Learning and Care, Children’s Mental Health, Education, Child Protection, Primary Care/Family Health Teams, and Children’s Treatment Centres) to engage in discussions that helped us identify the following:
  • Where there were additional opportunities to enhance existing programs, services, knowledge, and policies affecting children prenatal to age 6. 
  • What a care pathway focused on supporting mental health for families and those from prenatal to six might look like.
  • Opportunity to create comprehensive pathways to services to improve outcomes for children and their families.  
  • Implementation and evaluation of care pathways in the community.   
Using IEMHP’s Competency Framework, each community highlighted the need for further knowledge and skill-building in infant and early mental health across a vast range of disciplines and professions. All practitioners across the 3 communities were invited to participate in training provided by IEMHP. Over 400 practitioners successfully completed IEMHP’s training series; Introduction to Infant and Early Mental Health, An Introduction to the Ages and Stages Questionnaires, and An Introduction to Developmental Support Planning, to promote common language, common tools and common resources to better support the needs of infants, young children and their families. 

While training was ongoing, IEMHP and the Knowledge Institute for Child and Youth Mental Health and Addictions began inviting champions to create community-specific Implementation Teams. These teams were comprised of decisions-makers who were representative of their sectors, to discuss what a care pathway would look like in their community. The Implementation Teams were also a key factor in the sustainability of the work that took place in each community, as they would be assigned to the ongoing tasks required to update the pathway to better meet the needs of families as well as ensure ongoing conversations about infant and early mental health remained a priority in the community. 

Below you will see the City of Hamilton and Simcoe County IEMH Care Pathways. Simcoe County also had representation from Indigenous groups, and have also created an infant and early mental health care pathway for Indigenous families. This pathway is still in the process of being finalized and will post here once it has been completed. Hastings and Prince Edward Counties are still in the process of working through some major components of their pathway, and we hope to showcase their work soon.

IEMHP is available to guide you through this unique and beneficial process of discovery towards improving systems of care for infants, young children and their families.Should you be interested in learning more about how you can develop infant and early mental health care pathways in your community, please contact us at iemhp.learning@sickkids.ca

CLICK HERE for details on the Pathways Training Information Package
            
CLICK HERE for an Example of a Care Pathway developed with the City of Hamilton

CLICK HERE for an Example of a Care Pathway developed with the Simcoe County