Concurrent treatment for youth with mental health and addiction challenges: Presentation, outcomes, and lessons learned

Presentation First Author: 
Rebeccah Marsh

Introduction: Addiction disorders can lead to mental health disorders and many youth with mental health disorders turn to alcohol, drugs, or video games as a way of self-managing their underlying mental health problems. The impact of these disorders goes beyond the individual youth and has impact on family, peer relations, and academic success. In 2013, CASA Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health (CASA), a community-based, not-for-profit provider of mental health services in the Edmonton area, developed the Concurrent Addictions and Mental Health Program (CAMP). CAMP is a voluntary outpatient program that offers comprehensive assessment and treatment to youth and families with concerns about substance misuse and abuse (alcohol, drugs, and other substances) and process addictions such as video game, social media, and pornography addictions, and compulsive eating. At the same time, the program offers assessment for and treatment of a wide range of mental health concerns including attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, and other issues that present concurrently with addictions. CAMP is delivered by a multidisciplinary team that includes a child psychiatrist with specialty training in addictions, mental health therapists with expertise in trauma and addictions, a nurse, and a psychometrist.

Objectives: We describe the CAMP patient population and their presenting concerns, as well as our current evaluation framework in order to: (1) better understand the complex needs of youth struggling with co-occurring addictions and mental health challenges; (2) contribute to benchmarking of outcomes; and (3) share lessons learned for other health care providers and professionals.

Methods: We present results from a retrospective analysis of patient diagnoses, risk and resilience factors, and demographics; service characteristics and utilization; and outcome data.

Results/Practice Implications: Treating youth affected by mental illness and addiction can be a lengthy process and is often cyclical, with youth experiencing periods of increased and decreased misuse of substances and/or processes and changing severity in mental health symptoms. Only about half of CAMP patients have a planned discharge; many experience crises in their home lives and tend to drop out of treatment rather than leaving the program after completing their treatment goals. As a result, selecting and assessing appropriate program outcomes is challenging and multifaceted.

Conclusion: Youth struggling with co-occurring addiction and mental health concerns are best served when both pieces are assessed and treated concurrently. Integrated assessment and treatment improves health outcomes, reduces gaps in services, and enhances continuity of care.

Conference Name: 
Date of Presentation: 
9th Oct 2015
Type of presentation: 
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