Pilot project aimed at helping youth will continue at Glenrose Rehabilitation Centre

There seems to be a barrage of bad news about youth mental health in Alberta. Waiting lists are long, hospital beds are scarce, and many children and youth suffer while waiting for treatment or accessing the right kind of care. Recent government cutbacks have been overwhelming. 

Yet, programs that do exist in Edmonton and the quality of care provided tend to be outstanding. The Transitional Day Hospital at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Centre is an example of a successful program that is helping many youth. It began in February 2019 as a pilot project and is now going to continue indefinitely. 

“It’s a big need, and we are going to continue on,” says Beverly Lent, program manager. In her position, she works closely with the Glenrose Rehabilitation Centre and the Royal Alex children’s psychiatric unit.

Lent explains, “It came out because we always knew that mental health disorders can interfere with kids’ learning and their educational process. And also, they’re more likely to leave school. And we’re most concerned with kids after a hospitalization that return to school after an illness. Hospitalization is difficult. The risk of relapse and academic difficulties and social isolation are all things that we were concerned about. That was where it came from.”

Many factors inspired Lent and her team to create a solution in youth mental health care. When youth make a transition back to school, Lent says that, “There isn’t a lot available for aftercare for adolescents with mental health concerns. During the hospitalization, when we were talking about discharge, there was significant anxiety for parents, including feeling a lack of confidence, to be able to support their kids again once they are home. And also anxiety from the youth, after the disruption of a hospital stay, and getting back into things again. That seemed to be something we were seeing and hearing about.”

Lent explains that the seeds of the idea for the Transitional Day Hospital came from Danette Anderson, principal of the Edmonton Public School Board, and from Dr. Nkechi Abayomi, child psychiatrist. Anderson approached Lent, offering a teacher and a classroom as a resource. Abayomi spoke with Lent over many years working together about the need for the Transitional Day Hospital. The idea came to fruition in 2019, and the results are encouraging.

“In the past, patients were being discharged home, with some support in the community, or there is a longer term inpatient program at the Glenrose,” says Lent. The inpatient program is still running. The day program runs alongside the inpatient program. 

The program’s objective is to provide a non-residential school program for youth ages 12 to 17 who are transitioning home from a hospital stay. The program provides emotional, academic, social, and psychological support to patients. Typically, youth come from Station 35 (child psychiatry unit) at the Glenrose Hospital. Sometimes, they come from the inpatient school program at the Glenrose. 

The goals are to support continued learning and education, and to teach valuable skills to help patients manage their lives and reintegrate to a regular school. 

At any one time, there are typically five to six youth in the program. Youth begin when they are ready; there is no set start date. They stay as long as five to six weeks. Lent says the team has found that having six youth in the program at a time seems to work well. All courses are for credit. The program mimics high school as much as possible. It runs Monday to Friday, from 8:30 am to 3:10 pm. 

The team offers individual and group therapy. It includes teachers who work closely with the students, a psychiatrist, a community liaison nurse, a psychologist, and a manager. 

Rob Seifeddine is one of the team members. In his role as the child and youth development specialist, Seifeddine works with every youth from start to finish. He is available to help and encourage them from hospital discharge through entry and duration of the program. He also assists with transition out of the program. He has a dedicated cell phone so that students and family can contact him for support. 

Rob Seifeddine, child youth and development specialist, connects well with youth in the Transitional Day Hospital program and helps make it a success. | Tekla Luchenski

Lent also credits the success of the program to its Youth and Family Advisory Committee. They have provided critical feedback that helped establish and strengthen the process for everyone involved. She says, “The youths’ voice has been so powerful. And it’s been so humbling for me to listen to them. We’ve been able to move things forward with their voice.”

There is great potential for success when youth mental health care professionals have the resources they need to do their vitally important work.

Featured Image: The Transitional Day Hospital is a much-needed project for youth. | Pixabay