Français Français Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health

Impact Report

Redefining Excellence

Driving action today that will make a difference tomorrow

Excellence is

  • measurable
  • collective
  • evolving
  • possible
  • honest
  • worth it
  • data-driven
  • overdue
  • hard
  • brave
  • innovative
  • within reach.

Leaders' message

What is excellence?

After 14 years of supporting the evidence-informed evolution of the child and youth mental health sector, we’ve seen excellence, supported excellence and delivered excellence. However, and for lots of good reasons, a sustained and universal culture of quality and excellence has not yet emerged in Ontario. We believe that’s about to change, and the Centre is thrilled to be launching a new strategic plan designed to bring excellence to those who deserve it most — children, youth and families.

Excellence is powered by people. Systems, standards and processes might sustain excellence, but it’s people who lead and fuel the fire with an unwavering passion for delivering life-changing services to children, youth and families. Fortunately, there are a lot of those people in Ontario.

Excellence is measurable. While there is both an art and a science to child and youth mental health service delivery, there are evidence-informed standards of care that are worth identifying, pursuing and monitoring to ensure we are consistently delivering the best possible services to children, youth and families across the province.

Excellence is driven by data. To deliver excellence in child and youth mental health, we must have an objective way to understand the people we serve, the services we provide and the impact we make. Quality data drives quality improvement. Period.

Excellence is naturally elusive. Change is constant, and excellence needs to adapt to new contexts, new information and new technology. We can always do better, reach higher, learn more and put that knowledge to work for children, youth and families.

Excellence is long overdue. The time has come to deliver on the promise of an effective, accessible and efficient system of care for Ontario.

The stage is set. The foundation is laid. The stars are aligned. The ducks are in a row.

You can choose your metaphor, but it’s about time.

Let’s do this.

Michelle Hurtubise

Executive Director

Cathy Curry

Chair, Strategic Advisory Council

Michelle Hurtubise

Executive Director

Cathy Curry

Chair, Strategic Advisory Council

Strategic plan 2018–21

The Centre is embarking on a bold new strategy designed to channel the momentum for change in child and youth mental health into practical initiatives that will improve service access, experience and outcomes in every community. It’s the kind of change that children, youth and families can feel. Together with our partners, the Centre will set the standard for child and youth mental health services and stand up for an evidence-informed system that makes a real-life difference for people across Ontario. We will make the most of what we know and rapidly close knowledge gaps when they get in the way of effective and accessible services.


The best mental health and wellbeing for every child, youth and family. 


We drive high-quality child and youth mental health services by setting the bar for excellence and collaborating with others to pursue continuous quality improvement. 




The Centre will develop and
publish standards for child and
youth mental health services
in Ontario.


The Centre will fund research
to obtain evidence and data that will
inform forthright conversations
about organizational and
system performance.


The Centre will collaborate
with partners to build an integrated
data strategy for child and
youth mental health.


The Centre will close knowledge gaps
by supporting practical innovation
and evaluation.

Build our team

The Centre will adopt an organizational structure that will enable us to deliver excellence while continually tapping into external expertise.

Broaden our impact

Children, youth and families don’t exist in one system — so neither will we. The Centre will diversify our approach to include all organizations that provide child and youth mental health services.

Building blocks
for excellence

In 2018–2019, the Centre will assemble the building blocks that are necessary to turn our strategic plan into reality.


We will reach out to stakeholders and cross-sectoral partners to co-develop a set of system and research priorities designed to close the most urgent service and knowledge gaps.


We will establish a comprehensive framework for developing standards in child and youth mental health.


We will strengthen existing relationships and establish new connections to support collaboration and collective impact.


We will develop a new performance measurement framework for the Centre and actively participate in a system-wide effort to establish a quality framework for the sector.

Achieving excellence

In 2017–18, the Centre supported 92 projects designed to strengthen child and youth mental health services in Ontario agencies and communities.

Partnering with families


The Centre partnered with Parents for Children’s Mental Health to help 26 agencies and communities partner with families to improve service planning and delivery.

Parents for Children's Mental Health - Support. Educate. Empower.


The Centre’s supports increased agency knowledge about family engagement.


The Centre’s supports increased agency capacity to engage families.

With ongoing support from the Centre and Parents for Children’s Mental Health, all of our children’s mental health agencies now have their own family engagement groups working to improve services, advise staff and support a family engagement vision for our whole community.”


We have established a family advisory committee with strong leaders emerging who bring the voice of family to our children’s mental health system.”

Point Edward

Putting youth in the driver's seat


The Centre helped 18 agencies and communities across the province engage youth in service planning and delivery.


The Centre’s supports increased agency knowledge about youth engagement.


The Centre’s supports increased agency capacity to engage youth.

Our work with the Centre has helped the agency move towards a more informed and cohesive model of working with youth. Youth engagement is a shift in thinking about the way we work with youth, and our agency has seen that shift within several of its units. The Youth Engagement training was one of the best ways to highlight youth engagement, what it is and what it means, and a training that we still reflect on to this day.”


I feel we are more responsive to youth needs and interests (more youth friendly). We consult with youth regularly and have a more formal process for doing this than in the past. Youth are more able to shape the services that are provided at Skylark.”


Building a culture of quality

The Centre provided quality improvement or evaluation support to 21 agencies and communities across the province.

The Centre provided performance measurement support to five agencies and communities.

The Centre provided implementation support to five agencies and communities.


The Centre’s supports increased agency knowledge about quality and performance.


The Centre’s supports increased agency capacity to improve quality and performance.

Our team worked closely with Centre staff to apply Lean principles to a service stream within our organization. Clients attending our walk-in service have had several direct impact outcomes: more user-friendly paperwork, shorter wait times, support of a volunteer host and a redesigned waiting area. This experience was not only helpful in practical terms, as far as improving quality services, but helped embed the importance of quality improvement processes with our staff team.”

Point Edward

After receiving support from the Centre, we were better able as a group to set our direction and goals for the short term and outline and measure the achievements.”


Community-based suicide prevention and life promotion


The Centre provided youth suicide prevention, risk management, postvention and life promotion coaching to 17 Ontario communities.


The Centre’s supports increased community knowledge about youth suicide prevention.


The Centre’s supports increased community capacity to collaborate across sectors and mobilize to prevent youth suicide.

We have since been able to facilitate gatekeeper training initiatives and connect with other communities the Centre has worked with to gain expertise and advice on their approaches. Overall, we are a lot better off as your support has fostered our ability to share knowledge and expertise, assess our community's needs and take new approaches that otherwise would not have been possible.”


Driving excellence

Tackling system challenges together

System change is always hard, but it’s even more complicated when the system is made up of dozens of individual micro-systems — each doing their very best to support the children, youth and families they serve in a slightly different way. Meaningful change depends on our ability to collaborate, learn from each other and align our activities to deliver maximum value to Ontarians, no matter where they live.

This year, the Centre continued to coordinate and facilitate the hard work of Ontario’s lead agency community of practice — a group of operational leaders from every region of the province. Together, we made significant progress towards overcoming fundamental barriers to building a truly provincial system of evidence-informed, accessible and effective child and youth mental health services in Ontario.

2017–18 achievements:

Common definitions of six core services and a shared commitment to applying them consistently to support meaningful data collection and monitoring.

  • Targeted prevention
  • Brief services
  • Counselling and therapy services
  • Family capacity building and support
  • Specialized consultation and assessment
  • Crisis support services
  • Intensive treatment services

A revitalized process for integrated community mental health planning across the province, drawing on reliable data and cross-sectoral partnerships to reduce duplication and identify service gaps that require strategic investments — a standardized approach with enough flexibility to meet the unique needs of Ontario’s diverse population and geography.


Centre supports have helped the lead agency community of practice members pursue common goals.


The lead agency community of practice agrees that it is a productive venue for collaborative problem-solving.

The level of support from the Centre was very high, and absolutely critical to our achievement.”

(Member of the lead agency community of practice)

Youth wellness hubs Ontario

Youth wellness hubs are walk-in centres where young people ages 12 to 25 can get one-stop access to the mental health and addictions services they need. Services include mental health assessments, treatment for addictions and substance use, therapy and counselling, peer and family support and referrals to health care providers, including psychiatrists. Primary care, education, employment and housing services are also available, all under one youth-friendly roof.

In May 2018, the Ontario government announced the locations of six new youth wellness hubs, and we couldn't be more excited to work with our partners at CAMH and its Provincial System Support Program to provide support to these important initiatives.

New youth wellness hub locations:

  • Eastern Champlain (Cornwall area)
  • Haliburton
  • Kenora
  • Malton
  • North Simcoe
  • Niagara Region

These new hubs will join four existing sites — three in Toronto and one in Chatham-Kent.

Assessing data capacity

In spring 2017, we asked lead agencies about their ability to generate, manage and use high-quality data to inform service planning and delivery. All agencies participated, and we examined their reported capacity in four elements of an effective data framework: infrastructure, human resources, processes and decision making.

The Centre will continue this work in 2018–19, launching training and resources designed to fill knowledge gaps and enhance data capacity across the province.

Survey data says Ontario lead agencies fall across the data capacity continuum:

  • 38% are building foundations
  • 31% have some, but not all, of the ingredients for success
  • 31% report doing well and getting better all the time

The number of agencies that reported having access to the right people or processes to enable data-driven decisions

Informing excellence


Pourquois pas?

There are more than 600,000 francophones in Ontario and that number is rising. So why is it so hard to find and access high-quality, culturally appropriate services in French? The Centre examined the issue in Pourquois pas?, a policy-ready paper designed to explore the unique needs and strengths of Ontario’s francophone populations and identify ways to improve French-language service delivery within the evolving child and youth mental health system. The goal of achieving accessible and effective services is within our grasp, and we can make equity a reality — un fait accompli. Pourquoi pas?

Read the paper

Paving the path to connected care

The family doctor’s office is often the first stop for families looking for mental health support for a child or youth, but it often isn’t the best place for them to get the help they need. Too many families fall into the gap between primary care settings and community-based mental health services, preventing timely access to effective support.

In May 2017, the Centre released Paving the path to connected care, a policy-ready paper that has since inspired pilot projects in two Ontario communities. Using the HEADS-ED standardized screening tool, family physicians in Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto can rapidly assess the mental health needs of their patients and confidently direct them to the most appropriate community-based services.

Read the paper

Mental health in the early years

6 years

  • 2,190 days
  • 52,560 minutes
  • 3,153,600 seconds
  • More than a million new neural connections each second
  • = Infinite possibilities

In February 2018, a record number of participants joined us as we examined the continually evolving evidence on mental health and well-being in our smallest people. With a focus on the first six years of life, this symposium explored the early years as the foundation for life-long mental health and resilience.

Attendance: 130

Satisfaction: 4.6/5

Usefulness: 4.4/5

Quality state of mind

In October 2017, nearly 100 child and youth mental health leaders came together in Ottawa for Illuminate, Innovate, Inspire — our first-ever quality improvement learning symposium. Attendees heard from experts, connected with one another and took home practical tools and resources they can use to build a culture of quality in their organizations.

Thank you so much for all you do. You offer an exceptional resource in so many ways.”

Symposium participant

I have attended all your symposiums, and though I enjoyed the others, you hit this one out of the park!”

Symposium participant

Attendance: 94

Satisfaction: 4.4/5

Usefulness: 4.5/5

Thank you for supporting our team in our quality improvement journey. I feel more prepared to provide leadership in QI at my agency.”

(Symposium Participant)

Changing the game

Innovation initiatives

The Centre's Innovation Initiatives are designed to help Ontario's child and youth mental health changemakers turn their bold ideas into potential solutions for some of our sector's trickiest challenges. These grants provide up to $50,000 to try new things, collaborate in non-traditional ways, test promising ideas and stretch the boundaries of existing evidence to improve the quality and accessibility of child and youth mental health services in Ontario.

This year, the Centre supported the ongoing work of six grant recipients from the inaugural Innovation Initiatives competition and announced 10 new projects funded in March 2018.

2017–2018 Innovation Initiatives

Investment: $300,000

Number of projects: 6

Carizon family and community services, Kitchener

Evaluating alternatives to residential treatment programs:

Child Development Institute, Toronto

Implementation of Integra therapeutic martial arts: Bringing together children’s mental health and education to address challenges with emotion regulation in the school setting

Cornwall Community Hospital, Cornwall

Taking youth engagement to the next level in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry

Crossroads Children's Centre, Ottawa

School-based kindergarten pilot project

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor

A systematic, evidence-based and collaborative approach to streamline the crisis continuum for child and youth mental health in Windsor-Essex county

Kinark Child and Family Services, Markham

Validation of a new standardized residential assessment tool

2018–2019 Innovation Initiatives

Investment: $400,000

Number of projects: 10

East Metro Youth Services, Toronto

Improving access to high-quality, culturally relevant treatment for East Asian Canadian youth

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, Windsor

Collaborating to develop an early intervention to foster better mental health outcomes for children of parents with a mental illness

London Family Court Clinic, London

Coming of Age

Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre, Grey-Bruce

Holistic arts-based program

Vanier Children’s Services, London

Infant mental health clinics in community hubs

Cornwall Community Hospital, Cornwall

Leveraging strong ties between primary care, addictions, mental health and child welfare to optimize bonding in high-risk infants

YouthLink, Toronto

African-Canadian youth support

Chatham-Kent Children's Services, Chatham

Mindfulness Moments, North Bay

Virtual walk-in clinic for youth

Lynwood Charlton Centre, Hamilton

Managing waitlists with an interactive webinar-enhanced information and system navigation platform

Youth helping youth

When faced with mental health challenges, many youth say they would confide in a friend before telling a parent or health care professional. There is also growing evidence that effective peer support programs can play a critical role in the ongoing recovery of youth experiencing mental illness. In 2017–18, the Centre partnered with youth and Ottawa’s Community Suicide Prevention Network to co-develop a nine-part video series designed to introduce young people to the benefits and challenges of peer support and help them navigate a healthy peer support relationship.

The video series will be available in English and French in September 2018.

Pillars of Youth Peer Support: friendships, growth, education, harm reduction, career


  • Salaries and benefits: $3,061,843
  • Rent and administration: $753,305
  • Innovation initiatives: $731,726
  • Provincial learning events: $430,679
  • Purchased services: $231,508
  • Staff travel and accommodations: $229,037
  • Office supplies and expenses: $187,465
  • Communication and translation: $118,408
  • Dare to dream: $115,904
  • Staff training and development: $40,125

A look ahead

New website

This year, the Centre will be redeveloping our online presence, and we’re going to need your help. In fall 2018, look for opportunities to let us know how we can build a website that works for you.

Data capacity resources and training

The Centre is looking forward to helping fill the gaps identified in our 2017 assessment of data capacity across the child and youth mental health sector. In a series of training events and resources, we will share knowledge designed to help agencies generate, manage and use high-quality data to support evidence-informed service planning and delivery.

Happy birthday to us!

In 2019, the Centre will celebrate 15 years of supporting the evidence-informed evolution of Ontario’s child and youth mental health sector. We’ve come a long way together, but this is no time to slow down. Look for a few special initiatives that reflect on our successes, and examine what they’ve taught us about where to go next.

Closing knowledge gaps

Excellence is a journey, not a destination. That’s why the Centre is committed to stretching the boundaries of existing knowledge, identifying gaps in the evidence and supporting practical research to inform continuous service and system improvement. This year, we will consult with experts and partners to establish a focused agenda that will tackle some of the most pressing challenges in child and youth mental health.

Setting the standard for engagement

Achieving service and system excellence is impossible without the meaningful engagement of Ontario children, youth and families. Agencies across the province have embraced the concepts of meaningful family and youth engagement and are pursuing a wide range of activities designed to integrate service users in everything they do. In 2018–19, the Centre will work with partners to identify engagement practices that work, and move forward with a standard for engagement that can be applied consistently across the province.