By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Michael Garron Hospital’s regional partnership with Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital aims to provide support for children with extensive and urgent needs in East Toronto.
The Extensive Needs Services (ENS) program, which was announced on Oct. 20, ensures that kids who are living with neurodevelopmental, mental health, and medical pediatric needs receive the necessary care in a timely manner with personalized, wrap-around support.
“Typically these youths have the highest needs across those areas and aren’t well served within our existing systems”, said Adina Hauser, MGH’s Manager of Child and Youth Health Services. “So this program is designed specifically for those youths who have really complex vulnerabilities and we can serve them all in the same place with the expertise from those three systems.”
Prior to the partnership which brings this specialized care to Toronto’s east end, kids who have specific needs would often “fall through the cracks” of the system as they are typically required to receive care from facilities that are further from home.
“They would also have to go to multiple places to have their needs met,” said Hauser.
Hauser explained that receiving assistance for neurodevelopmental needs from one service while having to travel to a separate service for mental health needs puts an added burden on the kids as well as their families who are just as affected by these vulnerabilities.
This burden on family members was taken into account when developing the program as MGH’s Extensive Needs Service also provides counselling for the parents and caregivers in order to better equip them with the tools to navigate the health care needs of their child.
“When kids have complicated needs it falls on the families to manage that complexity day-to-day,” said Hauser. “So one of the service’s offerings is counselling and social work support for families specifically.”
MGH is also partnering with Surrey Place to do critical service coordination which aims to further help families with access to other available services or funding that might alleviate some of these pressures.
MGH expects to provide assistance for about 50 youths annually. Its share of the available funding allows for the curation of an individualized treatment plan, specific to the exact needs of each child.
Some of the services include prescribing or adjusting medications; mental health assessments and treatment; specialized interventions to support children and youth to build skills; and behaviour therapy.
“These kids are typically ones who really exhausted all other options,” said Hauser. “They’ve been to all other services; they’ve been all over the city. For our community, we have community members who would really benefit from services close to home.”
Hauser told Beach Metro Community News that MGH is hoping to hire 10 additional staff members specifically for the program.
This will allow for the provision of intensive care for the children. The staff will be individuals who are experts in a variety of fields including behavioural therapists, occupational therapists, nurses, dieticians, social workers, and more.
The Extensive Needs Service receives funding from both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Children, Community Social Services which distributed between three lead hospitals – Holland Bloorview, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and McMaster Children’s Hospital who are providing specialized neurodevelopmental health services to more than 1,000 families every year.
Holland Bloorview redistributes its funds amongst its community based partners. According to Hauser, MGH is the first community hospital to be signed up.
Over a two-year period, Michael Garron Hospital will receive $2.8 million. However, Hauser said she is hopeful the program will be extended beyond the current trial period as she believes it is a critical service needed within the community.
“If you hear the stories of families who raise these very complex children and struggling to meet the needs of their loved ones, you can really appreciate how hard that is – how heavy that burden is,” said Hauser. “So when you see the potential of a service that doesn’t create arbitrary lines in the sand and actually looks at what someone needs, it is a remarkable opportunity to be able to provide that type of care.”
The Extensive Needs Service program was launched in April with Holland Bloorview, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and McMaster Children’s Hospital.
Michael Garron Hospital’s role as part of the program officially launches in early 2024.
– Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.