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Compendium of Good Practices for Improving Seniors Mental Health in Canada


In 2011, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) published Guidelines for Comprehensive Mental Health Services for Older Adults in Canada (Guidelines). Since then, the Guidelines have become the gold standard for meeting the rapidly growing demand for geriatric mental health services, being used by mental health services planners and providers across the country (Wilson & Stinchcombe, 2017). The document emphasizes prevention, early intervention, and collaboration while underscoring how effective and efficient coordination of primary care and specialized health services can help people get the care and services they need.

Based on discussions with leading experts (Wilson & Stinchcombe, 2017) and key informants, however, planners and administrators need more information on how to apply the Guidelines’ recommendations to improve services in their communities. In particular, they need to know how to achieve results and overcome barriers (such as limited resources) and how to create processes to optimize access to (often scarce) mental health resources in the most cost-efficient manner, whether in urban, rural, or remote areas or when facing the unique challenges of dealing with diverse backgrounds or needs. The discussions also highlighted the need to make the scaling up of integrated mental health services for older adults a priority.

Using Canadian examples of well-integrated or innovative services across a range of resources and demographic profiles, this compendium is meant to help planners implement the Guidelines’ model of mental health services in their communities and jurisdictions. The Advisory Group guiding the project also asked that it include examples across the continuum of care, from mental health promotion to intensive services. Those used in the compendium came from a review of the literature published since the Guidelines and from key informants in seniors mental health. This outreach to informants included annual conference workshop dialogues in the fall of 2018 with the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry, the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, and the Canadian Association on Gerontology. Workshop follow-up surveys, disseminated through these partners and individual participants, identified organizations and key informants that were able to share examples of good practice services and programs for this compendium. Without seeking to be comprehensive, the examples used in this compendium illustrate some of the ways services in Canada have begun to implement the Guidelines. While many challenges remain with respect to meeting the mental health needs of older Canadians, these findings are encouraging. The hope is that it will inspire and support further developments by building on the experience of the many hard-working health-care providers and planners who had the foresight to establish the model services and programs.

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