Mike White writes: As CMH’s Arts and Health Research Fellow I’ve been invited to give the keynote address at Alberta Health Services’ Connecting 4 Kids conference in Edmonton this month (February 2012). This annual conference attracts leading thinkers in child health and psychology, but this is the first time it has focused prominently on the arts in health.
Alberta’s Children’s Mental Health Plan supports a coordinated and collaborative approach to optimizing the mental health and well-being of infants, children and youth up to 24 years of age. One of the goals of the Plan is improved access through effective partnerships between health areas, schools and community agencies. This includes prevention, early intervention, treatments and supports that address the needs of children and youth. It is emphasised that partnerships are crucial to advancing children’s mental health so the delivery strategy includes a very close working relationship with areas that are not typical mental health providers. Schools are one example, as are child and family services. Even other health providers such as public health nurses are identified as being a crucial ingredient in some of the actions. By linking with these stakeholders and supplying mental health expertise, children have their mental health needs met in very innovative ways. A portion of the actions includes a training component to expand the skills of existing staff so they can provide more comprehensive services to kids. The Plan is now implemented across 25 schools-based sites in Alberta and has attracted health service funding of over $40 million since 2006.
It will be fascinating to compare this initiative, and its research, with the work that CMH has been developing with a number of schools in North East England and at CMH artist Mary Robson’s long-term project in Chickenley primary school in Dewsbury.
Whilst visiting Edmonton I will also touch base with the medical humanities unit at Alberta University and give a talk to staff and students.