The Latest Finding the right mental health care for kids and youth just got a lot easier

Author: Kids Come First | Les enfants avant tout

14 June 2021

June 14, 2021—OTTAWA— Today, the Kids Come First Health Team officially launched, a unique service in Canada that makes it easier for children, youth and families of Eastern Ontario to find the care they need for mental health and addiction.

The initiative coordinates more than 20 organizations offering mental health and addiction care for children, youth and their families — addressing a need that families and Kids Come First Health Team partners across the region have often highlighted.

“The last thing that parents and youth need to hear when they are already stressed and seeking help is, ‘Sorry you live in the wrong city,’ or ‘Sorry, you are too old or too young for our services,’” said Deena Shorkey, Director of Community Child and Youth Mental Health Services at Cornwall Hospital. “ will make it as easy as possible for those seeking help to find the right service, right away; to hear, ‘Yes, you have called the right place. We’re here to help.’”

Christie Kopczyk, a parent advisor, has experienced this uncertainty herself.

“When you’re looking, you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for or what’s out there. Getting connected right away is so important. And knowing that you have access to everything that’s available is hugely important for starting down the right road,” said Kopczyk, who is also a program manager at Parents’ Lifeline of Eastern Ontario, or PLEO.

Now, all that anyone has to do is call 613-260-2360 or 1-877-377-7775 (toll free for Eastern Ontario), or fill out an online form — even primary care providers looking for the right care for their patients.

“When families are not able to quickly connect with the care they need, children and youth repeatedly visit emergency departments or try to access services that might not be the right fit. This can lead to poor outcomes,” said Joanne Lowe, Executive Director of Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa and Vice-president of Mental Health and Addiction at CHEO, which are both partners of the Kids Come First Health Team. “Now, is here to help people on their first call — to take away that burden and uncertainty of searching.”

Start-up funding for came from Ontario Health and the City of Ottawa. The service is also made possible by funding partner RBC.

When someone connects with, the trained staff will:

  • discuss what is happening and the person’s needs,
  • answer questions and help to find the right information,
  • provide a list of services that might be a good fit for their specific mental health and addiction needs and help select the best ones for them,
  • help them connect with the mental health and addiction service(s) that are best for them and make appointments when possible.

“ will give kids and youth the safety and privacy to connect, ask questions and find information without having to wait until they are feeling extremely unwell,” said Steph Dinsdale, a youth advisor involved in developing and shaping “It is also a chance to find a community of support and know that there are options for them other than the emergency room and expensive therapy sessions. I am so happy it’s here.”

In addition, will have a more involved role for complex situations.

“Most agencies can’t fill all the needs of complex cases and will help in a couple of ways. First, because all partners are now sharing electronic health records, children and youth requiring service from more than one provider don’t have to keep repeating their story, over and over again,” said Tania Renaud Fournier, Director of Youth and Family Mental Health Services at Le Cap. “And coming soon, will add care coordinators to the team, who are there to catch the ball and carry it with families in need of more complex mental health and addiction care.”

When you put all these pieces together, the initiative is unique in Canada.

“When someone close to you is struggling, especially a child, a young person, it’s heartbreaking. That’s why when we heard about, we knew we had to help,” said Marjolaine Hudon, Regional President, Ontario North and East, RBC. “RBC Foundation’s $1.5 million donation for the Kids Come First Health Team will help fill a critical gap. It will simplify access to youth mental health care and ensure youth and their families get connected with the support they need.”

This donation is part of RBC Future Launch – RBC’s $500 million commitment over ten years, to help youth better prepare for the future.

To support the initiative, the community can participate in the Virtual RBC Race for the Kids or by donating at

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About Kids Come First Health Team
Kids Come First Health Team comprises 61 organizations, 1,089 physicians, 2,535 staff, and family and youth representatives recognized as equal partners — all working together to improve pediatric health care in Eastern Ontario.