In late 2015, Dr Jill Cunes, a family doctor in Golden, BC, was one of half a dozen GPs in her region who signed up for the Practice Support Program Child and Youth Mental Health module. As one of 12 physicians working in the only health clinic in town, she and her colleagues cover all the health needs of the surrounding population. Since joining the clinic in 2013 she’s noticed an increasing number of youth and young adults coming forward with mental health and substance use concerns.

“I am not sure if it’s a true increase in incidence, or whether it is simply more youth being aware and seeking help,” notes Dr Cunes, a member of the Golden LAT. Nevertheless, since the need for care has increased, she wanted to keep current so signed up for the module.

Enabling family physicians to have up-to-date skills and knowledge was one of the key reasons the Practice Support Program (PSP) developed and released the CYMH Module in 2011.

Established in 2007 under the Joint Collaborative Committees of Doctors of BC and the BC government, the PSP provides a suite of evidence-based educational services and in-practice supports to improve patient care and doctors’ experiences. One of 11 training modules created by PSP, the CYMH module is primarily aimed at family doctors to support them to identify, assess, manage and treat children and adolescents with mild to moderate mental health disorders, specifically anxiety, ADHD, and depression.

The module’s goal is to improve physicians’ knowledge and aid their collaboration with other parts of the child and youth mental health  system, such as with pediatricians, local mental health service providers from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, psychiatrists, and nongovernment community agencies.

During the module, these allied professionals are invited to attend the sessions and present to doctors about their specific services. Cunes found that the PSP module was a valuable use of her time, connected her to other care providers in the region, and updated her with screening tools and algorithms for care.

“I really believe in keeping up-to-date with regular CME (continuing medical education),” she said. Her colleagues share that view, she notes, as the majority of them have also taken the PSP-CYMH module since its debut.
The module was a pivotal precursor to the establishment of the CYMHSU Collaborative — for doctors and other service providers who attended it in the Interior, it identified the gaps in care, and spurred them to find solutions. This seeded the Collaborative, bringing together multiple partners to take on some of the issues.

Since the Collaborative started, more than 1,600 doctors and Medical Office Assistants in BC have taken the module. As well, at least 10 LATs have made promoting participation in the module one of their objectives. The PSP program administrators note that since 2013, the CYMH module has been held a total of 92 times in the five health regions.

An evaluation by Hollander Analytical Services in June 2015 found that of the GPs who completed end of module surveys, 96.1% agreed or strongly agreed that attending the CYMH module had helped them improve the care they provided to their CYMH patients.

This story was originally published in Shared Care Committee’s Legacy Report: Progress of the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative.