Kitchener-Waterloo·Special Report

Mental health transition pilot planned for Waterloo Region youth

Starting in November, Waterloo Region and Wellington County could have their first transition program for young adults no longer eligible for children's mental health services.

Program would smooth the transition from child to adult mental health services.

Lutherwood's Aaron Stauch is working with other mental health service providers to ease the transition young adults must make between child and adult services. (Aaron Stauch)

Starting in November, Waterloo Region and Wellington County could have their first transition program for young adults no longer eligible for children's mental health services. 

Local organizations are working together to address some of the challenges that face young people when they grow too old for services intended for children. 

"There are a number of youth...that need to make that transition from the children's sector to the adult sector," says Aaron Stauch, program manager of community mental health services at Lutherwood, an agency that provides help to youth. "How do we make sure the system doesn't get in the way of doing that?"

Stauch is co-chair of a committee that wants to bridge the gap between services for children under the age of 18, which are funded by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, and services for adults, which are funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. 

There are a number of youth...that need to make that transition from the children's sector to the adult sector. How do we make sure the system doesn't get in the way?- Aaron Stauch, Lutherwood

When young adults try to make the switch from services funded by one ministry to services funded by the other, Stauch says they often end up on long waiting lists or with no services at all. 

"We feel the need to stop serving at 18, because we have demand to get new clients in," he said, referring to the services Lutherwood provides to teenagers. 

On the other hand, he says that "the adult services have people already established on the waiting lists. So, there's a hesitancy to prioritize someone, just because they're coming from the children's sector."

Service divide 'makes things worse'

While waiting for adult services, Stauch says a young adult's mental health can actually decline because of the lack of available and familiar supports. 

"That support network suddenly changes to a different support network that they don't understand yet, because they haven't been exposed to it," he says. 

"If things aren't going okay, if you're having thoughts of self-harming or school's not going well...not knowing who to reach out to really takes away a coping strategy, which then makes things worse."

Stauch hopes a transition program will make it easier and less stressful for young adults to jump from child to adult services when they turn 18. 

The committee wants to begin a pilot of the program in late November.

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