Montreal pilots mental health service for youths

Strata HealthMONTREAL – The University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) and Strata Health Solutions will conduct a pilot aiming to improve direct access to public mental health services for young people and empowering them in the initial consultation process.

In Canada, 75% of youth aged 11 to 25 with mental health problems do not have access to the services they need. “They often face excessive wait times and complex pathways to services, which discourage young people from taking the steps needed for receiving appropriate assessment and care,” said Shalini Lal, a researcher at CRCHUM and professor at the University of Montreal.

Given that one in five people will be affected by mental illness during their lifetime and that most mental illnesses occur before the age of 25, young people are particularly vulnerable. “New technologies can be useful to ensure that their initial access to care experience is positive,” said Lal. “If young people are greeted by an answering machine or have to explain to several people why they are consulting, it can increase their psychological distress and discourage them from seeking the help they need.”

To tackle this problem, Lal will oversee the development and evaluation of an innovative self-referral strategy to improve direct and rapid access to youth mental health services using online technologies.

“Young people can complete a referral form themselves on a secure platform. The form will be integrated with an electronic referral management system which will help a clinician triage requests and give appointments for consultations in person, by phone, live chat, or video conference, depending on the youth’s preferred mode of communication. We believe the use of new technologies will facilitate access to care and empower young people to undertake the initial process of consultation themselves,” Lal explained.

As a key partner in the project, Strata Health Solutions, will deliver the technology components of the solution – the self-referral form, the e-referral management system, the secure platform, and other supporting health technologies. “We are pleased to work with Shalini Lal and her team on this research project to collectively contribute to improving access to mental health for our youth and better understand the clinical and economic outcomes of these self-referrals” said Peter Smith, EVP, Strata Health Solutions. “Strata Health Solutions is committed to provide $720,000 of in kind contributions to make this project work, knowing this will further innovate and improve our product value offer to our customers.”

The project is funded by the Canadian government through a $750,000 grant over four years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as part of the eHealth Innovations Partnership Program. The Graham Boeckh Foundation is also investing $325,000, bringing the total funding to $1.075 million.

The eHealth Solution will be tested in six sites in Canada: CLSC Dorval-Lachine (Montréal, Québec), CLSC Parc-Extension (Montréal, Québec), Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (Chatham, Ontario), Alberta Health Services and CASA (Edmonton, Alberta), Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (Eeyou Istchee Cree Territory, Québec), and Eskasoni Mental Health & Social Work Services (Mi’kmmaw Eskasoni First Nation, Nova Scotia).

These sites are participating members of ACCESS Open Minds, a pan-Canadian, 200-member network of youth, families, service providers, researchers, decision makers, and community organizations.

About this study
Shalini Lal, PhD., is a researcher at CRCHUM, professor at the University of Montreal, and principal investigator of the project, “An Integrated Self-Referral eHealth Strategy for Improving Rapid and Direct Access to Youth Mental Health Services: A Stepped-Wedge, Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial in Six Canadian Healthcare Settings,” funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Graham Boeckh Foundation. The other project partners are the company Strata Health Solutions, the ACCESS Open Minds network, the organization Kids Help Phone, the Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts (CYCC) Network, and the organization mindyourmind.

About Strata Health Solutions
Strata Health leverages technology to achieve dramatic patient flow improvement within health systems. Since 2001, over 1.2 million referrals have been completed within the existing 75 care streams (referrals paths) demonstrating powerful results across the entire care continuum. Strata Health’s advanced real time business analytics complements the software suite to drive continuous system improvements. These analytics can be tailored by customer (ex.: provincial wait 1, 2, 3 in Ontario). Strata Health is based in Canada (Calgary Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Quebec,), in the UK (Dartford, Kent) and in France (Paris). For more information, visit

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