Although an estimated 20% of children and youth experience mental health and/or addictions (MHA) issues, over 70% of those in need of care do not receive appropriate services. The youth MHA care system is laden with barriers that result in complex, unclear pathways for youth experiencing MHA concerns. The presence of MHA issues can also cause strain for the whole family. The goal of the Family Navigation Project (FNP) is to improve access to treatment for youth with mental illness and/or addictions, and to support families when they are most in need. Families with youth in need of help, for mental health and/or addictions, ages 13 to 26 within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), contact the service by phone or e-mail and a navigator helps to connect them up with the appropriate services throughout Toronto, Ontario and sometimes even outside of Canada. The FNP was started as a collaborative project between the current Medical Director and a committed group of parents with lived experience who had a vision for a system that would help families overcome the hurdles they had faced in accessing the right care at the right time. Every step in the design and implementation of the Family Navigation Project has been guided by parents who have first-hand experience in the challenges of getting their children the help they need. The Navigators have developed a repertoire of over 800 resources at over 500 community organizations, and understand the nuances of various resources and services so that they can make individualized recommendations specific to the youth’s difficulties as well as to meet the needs of the whole family. Since beginning in late 2013, FNP has worked with over 1500 families, and currently takes in an average of 50 new families per month.
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