A Coordinated Response Is Key: Lessons Learned from the Shift to Virtual Service Delivery in a Children’s Mental Health Centre

Wood’s Homes shifted to virtual service delivery with many of its clients due to Covid-19. This created new challenges but also encouraged innovation and exploring new ways to build therapeutic relationships with clients. We conducted focus groups in December 2020 with representation from frontline staff (n=13), management and senior leadership (n=8), and support staff (n=6) to ask them how they managed and/or supported this shift, what processes needed to be expanded or newly developed, and how they connected with clients and their families to continue providing service with minimal disruption. We highlight the importance of a coordinated response, as participants noted that building a therapeutic relationship with clients remotely requires the building of new infrastructures, processes, and standards for effective service delivery. Parts of this work and the ability to explore these experiences were supported by funds received from Frayme through their Virtual Innovations in Care grant program.

Presenters and slide deck

Jenna Passi, Research Supervisor, Wood's Homes

Jenna Passi, MPP, MA – Currently the Research Program Supervisor at Wood’s Homes. Jenna holds both a Master of Public Policy (University of Calgary, 2018) and a Master of Arts – Criminology (University of Ontario Institute of Technology, 2014). Research interests include: social policy, program and outcome evaluation, capacity building, and data driven decision making.

Mitchell Parkinson, Research Assistant, Wood’s Homes

Mitchell Parkinson (M.A., University of Calgary, B.A., University of New Brunswick) is a Research Assistant with Calgary-based Wood’s Homes, a not-for-profit providing mental health services for youth in Alberta.


Key Learnings

  • Shifting to virtual service delivery presents organizational challenges.
  • Virtual work requires shifts in service delivery models.
  • Participating staff would like to see a hybrid model of in-person and virtual service moving forward.

Thoughts from those with Lived/Living Expertise

What are some of the highlights?

  • The presenters identified that logistical benefits played a key role in the shift to virtual, even during the pandemic’s abrupt need to adapt as an organization.
  • Unexpected challenges prompted further exploration, such as the lack of environmental control during family sessions, issues with confidentiality/privacy, and the technological issues related to equity barriers  (e.g., poor rural internet connection).

How can information gained be used? 

  • With additional technological support, rural areas may shift more towards virtual delivery given the lack of access of in-person services.
  • Conducting focus groups with many types of groups (e.g., youth, families, service providers) helps provide insight into the unexpected challenges of the shift to virtual care.  

What are the implications?

  • The intersection between the logistical and relational benefits/challenges of virtual or in-person delivery enables a potential for hybrid models. With future innovation and service provider support, there can be new ways of meeting patient needs through different hybrid models (e.g., virtual delivery method with an emphasis on privacy through anonymity).

What would you like to know more about?

  • More information regarding how COVID-19 impacted services that were already delivering virtually.
  • Information on the trade-off between accessibility and challenges with rapport building online.
  • What will happen to these services once COVID-19 ends?

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