$300,000 Donation from RBC Helps Hamilton’s Youth to Navigate the Mental Health Care System

Meet Jackie Hames. She’s a Transition Coach at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s Youth Wellness Centre (YWC). The YWC is on the second floor of the historic Pigott Building in Hamilton’s downtown core. Bright, accessible, and inclusive, it’s a space where youth aged 17 to 25 can seek support for mental health or substance use issues, and get connected with mental health care organizations and services in our region.

In Ontario, when a young person turns 18 years of age, it’s time for them to transition out of the child/youth mental health system and into the adult system. While this may sound simple, for a teen, it means a lot of upcoming changes without a clear roadmap. During this transition, youth are expected to navigate new and unfamiliar systems, including traveling to new mental health clinics, meeting and working with new healthcare professionals, and engaging in different kinds of therapy programs.

It can be a daunting and confusing time, especially because there are often other major life changes happening around the same time in school, relationships, family dynamics, employment, and housing. There may also be increased social pressures, or experimenting with substance use, along with a growing desire for independence. When one considers all of this, it becomes clear why youth may need someone to help guide them through this transition period.

“Just because a young person turns 18 and is now considered an adult in our healthcare system, does not mean they have the knowledge or experience to navigate such a significant change in the way they have been receiving care,” says Jackie. “The youth we see at YWC often have complex mental health struggles and are also experiencing other barriers in their lives, such as lack of family support or unstable housing. Many of these youth are also coping with chronic suicidal ideation and substance use. It’s critical that these vulnerable young people don’t feel alone at a time when everything is changing for them – our goal is to make sure that no one is falling between the cracks in the healthcare system during this transition time,” she explains.

As a Transition Coach, Jackie says she has the privilege of hearing young people’s goals for adulthood, and helping to make the referrals and connections that will foster positive steps towards those goals. Sometimes the pathway to finding the right supports in the adult mental health system is not clear for these youth, or they are facing barriers that make it difficult to stay connected – so Jackie works with her clients to problem solve and advocate for services when challenges arise. She also supports youth in building their independence, engagement, and organizational skills as they start to take on a bigger role in managing their own care.

The role of a dedicated Transition Coach for at-risk youth is relatively new to the YWC and was made possible in part thanks to a generous donation of $300,000 (payable over the next three years) made by RBC. Two-hundred and forty thousand dollars of the gift will be used to fully develop and support the Transition Coach model, and the YWC estimates coaches like Jackie will support approximately 90 youth each year. The remaining $60,000 of RBC’s donation will help to fund the expansion and renewal of the Psychiatric Emergency Service (PES) at St. Joseph’s Charlton Campus. PES is a specialized emergency department for people experiencing a mental health crisis—and right now 25% of the cases they see are youth who are often treated for their mental health emergency and then referred to the appropriate in-patient or outpatient program at St. Joe’s, the YWC or in the community.

“Protecting and investing in youth mental health is more important than ever. That’s why we’re committed to supporting programs that we believe can make a difference in helping youth and their families get access to the mental health services they need,” says Carmela Trombetta, Vice-President, Commercial Financial Services, RBC. “We’re proud to support the Youth Wellness Centre in achieving their mission of breaking down the barriers that young people can face when accessing mental health care while at the same time, enabling the Psychiatric Emergency Services to care for more patients than ever before.”

“RBC has been a long-time partner and supporter of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation,” says Sera Filice-Armenio, President and CEO, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation. “From gifts to help build the integrated mental health and medical care facility on our West 5th Campus, to entering corporate fundraising teams in the Around the Bay Road Race, and sponsoring our annual Holiday Gala, RBC’s generosity has helped to ensure our community has access to the exceptional care provided by St. Joe’s. We are immensely grateful for RBC’s newest donation of $300,000 as it is dedicated to protecting the mental health of our youth and young adults, our community’s greatest hope for the future.”