Rethinking service design for youth with mental health needs: The development of the Youth Wellness Centre, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton
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AIM: This article describes the development and design of the Youth Wellness Centre (YWC), an innovative, youth-friendly centre providing mental health and addiction services for emerging adults aged 17 to 25 in Hamilton, Canada. We also report on demographic and clinical characteristics of clients to evaluate how the YWC is serving populations at increased risk of developing mental disorders. METHODS: Data were extracted from clinic databases for 1520 youth at the YWC between March 2015 and 2018 to report on demographic characteristics, clinical profiles, primary presenting problems, service use and overall satisfaction with services. RESULTS: Marginalized groups, particularly street-involved individuals and LGBTQ+ youth, are highly represented at the YWC, keeping with the centre's mandate of reaching at-risk populations. Youth at the YWC carry significant mental health burdens, with 80.8% having a history of suicidal ideation and 32.8% having a history of a substance use disorder. The primary route of referral is self-referral and the number of new clients has increased by nearly 20% in the first 3 years of operations. Overall satisfaction with the centre is on par with or slightly above provincial averages. CONCLUSIONS: The YWC was developed to meet the mental health needs of transition-aged youth in Hamilton by providing early intervention, system navigation and transition services. The success of the YWC in reaching high-risk youth is demonstrated by the significant proportion of clients reporting demographic and clinical risk factors associated with increased risk for development of mental disorders. The increasing referrals to the YWC highlight the ongoing need for similar services.
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