Nov. 22, 2019

UCalgary to lead research in treatment and diagnosis of child, adolescent mental health

New Calgary facility one step closer to reality as construction gets underway

Standing shoulder to shoulder, representatives from the University of Calgary, Government of Alberta, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation (ACHF) and Alberta Health Services (AHS) turned the first shovels of dirt to launch construction on the new Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

The centre will be one of the most robust research-intensive, community-based mental health-care facilities for young people in Canada. In partnership with AHS, the research initiatives are being led by experts from UCalgary, including the Cumming School of Medicine’s (CSM) Owerko Centre at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

The centre is built upon UCalgary expertise in epidemiology, health economics, imaging science, medical genetics, psychiatry and psychology. It will comprise researchers from multiple faculties including CSM, Arts, Social Work, Nursing, the Werklund School of Education, the School of Public Policy, as well as the CSM’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

“We have a critical mass of world-class researchers in Child Health and Wellness and Brain and Mental Health at the University of Calgary. We are grateful for the opportunity to lead this transformational research program, and be part of creating a healthy future for children and their families,” says Andre Buret, interim vice-president (research), University of Calgary.

One in five Canadian children struggles with mental health challenges. By expanding knowledge of childhood and adolescent mental health, there is an opportunity for advancing new treatments and providing better prevention of many conditions.

Being built in partnership between AHS and ACHF, the centre will provide young people with new and enhanced services, including a walk-in clinic with specialized triage and the opportunity for immediate referrals to onsite programs. These community-based services will provide youth and their families with care designed to stabilize and manage escalating illness and, ideally, prevent hospitalization.

“Beyond serving as an innovative clinical care facility, this new centre represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop and implement a world-leading mental health research program with a direct pipeline from discovery to care — all in one setting,” says Deborah Yedlin, chancellor of the University of Calgary. “Through this centre, we will be enabling research that has never before been possible in our community.”

To close the knowledge gaps and break new ground in child mental health, a research framework will integrate with services and generate new biological, translational and clinical data that can be used to develop, test and refine interventions — a pipeline from discovery to care, all under one roof.

Every research project will be evaluated to define effectiveness, transferability and socioeconomic impact. By applying this lens, the team hopes they will gain new insights that will assist local and provincial policymakers in future decisions around child mental health funding and services. It will be built in the community of Hounsfield Heights — chosen because of its proximity to the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the university — and will serve thousands of kids and families each year.

The centre is being funded through strong community support for the ACHF’s BuildThemUp campaign. It is expected to open in the fall of 2021.