The Homeless Youth network (RIPAJ) of downtown Montreal, held its official opening November 9, 2016. RIPAJ is one of 12 pan-Canadian ACCESS Open Minds integrated youth service (IYS) sites. The opening took place at Dans La Rue, one of the many community service sites in Montreal that deal with youth in high risk situations of homelessness and mental ill health that form the RIPAJ network.
There were some 150 people attending the opening ceremonies to mark the transformation of RIPAJ`s mental health services and the launch of its research activities as part of the ACCESS Open Minds project.
RIPAJ is a model showcase for bringing a number of community organizations together in an effective network to integrate mental health services and to greatly improve the ability of young people and their families to navigate the system.
The gathering included many prominent people involved in the project. The atmosphere was one of excitement and emotion as the realization of the dream of transformation of mental health services for young people has become a reality. The essential idea of this transformation is to integrate mental health, homeless and other relevant services for a very vulnerable young population. It provides, in loose terms, one-stop shopping that is stigma-free, rapid access and ease of navigation.
There were a number of prominent speakers including Dr. Ashok Malla, Principal Investigator for the ACCESS Open Minds project, Dr. Amal Abdel-Baki, Principal Investigator for the ACCESS OM-RIPAJ site and psychiatrist at the CHUM, Diane Aubin, psychologist for Dans La Rue and Site Lead for the ACCESS OM-RIPAJ site, Ian Boeckh, President of GBF, and Peter Schiefke, MP for the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth).
Integrated youth mental health service sites are developing rapidly across the country. A key role that the 12 ACCESS OM sites will play is to collect and evaluate the data that will provide desperately needed scientific evidence to support the scale up of this approach across the country. RIPAJ and its partners, which include Dans La Rue, University of Montreal Hospital Centre (CHUM), the Homeless Youth Clinic of the CSSS Jeanne-Mance, the Refuge des jeunes, and others, will play a key role.
We are delighted that the Honourable Jane Philpott, Canadian Minister of Health, is very supportive of integrated youth mental health services. She said:
“The Government of Canada is proud to support ACCESS Open Minds in partnership with the Graham Boeckh Foundation. The Network will play a key role in improving youth mental health care in Canada. I offer my congratulations to the research team and community partners on the opening of this site in Montreal dedicated to helping young people living in precarious circumstances.”
ACCESS Open Minds is the first pan-Canadian network to be launched under the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). Funded equally by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Graham Boeckh Foundation, this $25 million dollar initiative aims to sustainably transform the service system to optimally meet the needs of youth aged 11 to 25 who are experiencing mental ill health.