Young people are the focus of a new mental health clinic that aims to bridge a gap in services throughout London.
The Child and Youth Development Clinic, which celebrated its grand opening Wednesday, is a training centre for graduate students that provides affordable treatment for kids with mental health and educational struggles between three and 18-years-old.
“We know there are families who are on wait lists who are struggling right now” said director Dr. Colin King. “And again, because of some of those financial barriers, are not able to access the help that they need.”
For the sake of accessibility, the clinic’s “fee for service” model puts prices on a sliding scale.
King says families who have insurance coverage, or financial means, will pay more according to their fee schedule. As a result, the clinic will provide lower rates and even pro-bono service to families struggling financially.
The clinic is breathing life into the former Bank of Montreal building that sat empty just north of Western’s main gates for years, but it’s also a space where graduate students in the Faculty of Education are getting practical experience in their field.
Elizabeth Thornley is a third-year PhD candidate in the school and applied child psychology program, and is one of the facility’s graduate student clinicians.
She’s been doing one-on-one assessments for kids who struggle with reading, math, language, and coping with feelings of anxiety and sadness, in the building’s three assessment rooms on the lower-level.
“It’s a bit of a unique setting downstairs, given that it’s an old bank of montreal building,” she said.
The rooms are designed to be engaging and comforting spaces for children, but not so engaging that they’re distracted from the assessment proces.
“We’ve tried to bring some colour into the rooms. So we have a couple walls that are white, then we have an accent colour on one wall,” she said. The walls have bright and quirky animal decals, “but nothing they can actually physically touch.”
Equipped with somewhat subtle audio and visual recording equipment, experts in the field are able to monitor and provide feedback for graduate student clinicians without being in the room at the same time.
The facility’s main floor is bright, open, and colourful. Near the stairs leading down to the assessment rooms, there’s a large plush bear and tiger that are “meant for snuggles.”
“It is a bit of an unusual experience for a child to have to go in a room and work one on one with someone that they barely know,” explained Thornley. “The bear is just there as a comfort.”
The bank’s old vault has purpose too; that’s where paper copies of assessment tools are being kept. Client’s mental health files are stored in a secure online system, assured Thornley, while de-identified information is being used to inform the research community at the university.