Breaking down barriers to specialized mental health care

Hospital News – Ontario Shores Partnership

With one in four people in York Region living with mental illness — higher than the national average of one in five — Mackenzie Health is constantly seeking innovative new ways to deliver community-based mental health services that allow patients to receive care closer to home.

Our new partnership with Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences (Ontario Shores) is doing just that.

Announced in November 2021, Mackenzie Health and Ontario Shores have joined forces to launch the new Integrated Mood Disorders Clinic at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital. It's a site of specialized mental health care services that provides psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy and an innovative brain stimulation treatment right here in York Region.

That innovative treatment, called Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive option for patients facing treatment-resistant depression. It delivers a series of short magnetic pulses directed at the brain to stimulate nerve cells. Patients are able to return to their regular activities immediately following treatment, which lasts about three to eight minutes.

Operated by Ontario Shores, the site is helping many community members avoid having to seek care further away — improving their access to treatment and creating a more efficient, effective health care system in the process.

The clinic is particularly impactful for patients suffering from treatment-resistant depression, who would otherwise be required to wait to receive care at highly-specialized mental health centres elsewhere in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.

“Unfortunately, wait lists for specialized mental health services in Ontario are long — and have only grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Canadians have experienced historically high rates of mental health challenges,” says Dr. Steven Youssoufian, Chief and Medical Director of Mackenzie Health’s Mental Health Program.

“The opening of this clinic will significantly reduce barriers to care — particularly for those in greatest need — by making it possible for York Region residents to access leading-edge mental health programs right here in our community.”

Partners in vision — and delivery 

At the new clinic, clinicians from Ontario Shores — a public teaching hospital providing a range of specialized services for individuals living with complex and serious mental illness — are working in close partnership with Mackenzie Health’s psychiatry and mental health clinical team to integrate care into our existing outpatient services.

Mackenzie Health clinicians can refer patients to the clinic, where the Ontario Shores team quickly determines the best available treatment. Patients remain connected to their Mackenzie Health clinician throughout their treatment to ensure continuity of care and a seamless patient experience.

“The clinic’s highly-integrated model is setting a new standard for partnered approaches to patient care,” says Altaf Stationwala, President & CEO of Mackenzie Health. “By leveraging one another’s strengths and expertise, Mackenzie Health and Ontario Shores are delivering a truly innovative and impactful solution that addresses critical gaps in the landscape of mental health care.”

Advancing the possibilities of community-based mental health care

The Integrated Mood Disorders Clinic is the latest addition to Mackenzie Health’s comprehensive range of mental health services designed to provide world-leading care in the heart of western York Region.

Working in close partnership with 24 community-based mental health agencies, our mental health team consists of 15 psychiatrists and more than 80 health care professionals — including nurses, social workers, occupational and recreational therapists and a psychologist.

With a host of outpatient programs available for children, adults and families and an inpatient unit for adults, each of our two hospital sites offers a unique set of services.

Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital is now home to Mackenzie Health’s Mental Health Inpatient Unit and the RBC Emergency Psychiatric Unit, while Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital hosts mental health outpatient care services, including our child, youth and family service programs. The site is also continuing to provide emergency services for those who come to the hospital with urgent mental health needs.

Both hospitals offer crisis intervention and aftercare clinics for medication monitoring, ensuring that patients across York Region can receive critical support close to home.

“Our goal for all of our mental health services is to help patients live healthy, active lives in the community by providing world-leading care right around the corner from where they live and work,” says Dr. Youssoufian.  “Our partnership with Ontario Shores represents the start of an exciting new era in community-based mental health care in York Region –– one that holds the potential to significantly reduce barriers to specialized care and build strength, resilience and wellness into the fabric of our community.”