Alberta Health Services has a new mental health and addiction program to support youth in crisis. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

Alberta Health Services has a new mental health and addiction program to support youth in crisis. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

New addiction and mental health program for youth in central Alberta

Acute at Home team helps teens recover away from hospital

A new Alberta Health Services program is helping youth in central Alberta with mental health or addiction issues stay out of hospital.

The Acute at Home program provides mental health support for four to six weeks, for youth aged 13 to 17, in crisis.

A mental health therapist, social worker, registered psychiatric nurses and mental health aides are now in place for the program, launched last September across Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Central zone.

Youth and their families receive support from the healthcare team in a clinic setting, or online at home, while connections are made with other service providers such as schools, counsellors and physicians.


AHS aims to help Central Alberta youth with new mental health program

AHS said the pressure on emergency rooms and acute care admissions has been building.

About 1,000 youth visit the emergency room in Central zone annually for addiction and mental health issues. Meanwhile, the numbers have increased 84 per cent in acute care since 2016/17, and demand has increased 37 per cent in addiction and mental health community clinics.

AHS said some of the increase may be attributed to the impacts of the pandemic, but it’s also due to a lessening of the stigma surrounding mental health which has resulted in more people reaching out for help.

“We know people can feel overwhelmed as youth and their families go through one of the most difficult times in their lives in experiencing a crisis,” says Amy Klimosko, director for Red Deer Child, Youth and Family Addiction and Mental Health, AHS Central zone.

“At the same time we needed a way to alleviate the growing pressures on the emergency room and the limited number of youth beds dedicated to addiction and mental health in the zone. This program fills that gap.”


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So far Acute at Home has diverted 127 cases from emergency and acute care admission.

Currently offered by referral only in Red Deer and area, Acute at Home responds within 24 hours and offers appointments seven days a week, including evenings and weekends. A similar program operates in Calgary through Alberta Children’s Hospital.

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