From the Frontlines: How Kids Help Phone is leveraging technology and data to support young Canadians through an adapted Stepped Care Model of Support

For 30 years, Kids Help Phone has innovated to respond to unmet need. Now is the time for a more radical change. Young people have increasingly diverse needs, rely on ever changing technologies, and deserve a broad range of supports that can meet them where they’re at. To propel us forward and keep us responsive, we have broadened our service delivery along an adapted, stepped care model. This is our Innovation Imperative. We have embraced innovation, technology, and data in a way often neglected by the mental health space, and have seen incredible benefit. As a national leader in e-mental health and innovation, we will share from our experience transforming our national services and organization. We will share learnings from rapidly building new national services, as well as discuss our experiences advancing an organization with tools not traditional to the mental health space.

Presenters and slide deck

Alisa Simon, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Chief Youth Officer

Alisa Simon brings more than 20 years of leadership experience in health-care access and support services to her role as Senior Vice President, Innovation and Chief Youth Officer at Kids Help Phone. As a champion of innovation, Alisa is integral to the organization’s development of virtual health solutions for youth. Using comprehensive data and research to provide knowledge management strategies, Alisa drives improvements in service and support that respond to evolving technologies and the changing needs of young people. Prior to joining Kids Help Phone, Alisa had experience serving as Health Policy Director at Public Citizens for Children and Youth where she managed two helplines assisting children and families. She was also the Health Care Director at Citizens for Consumer Justice and Acting Director of Policy and Communications with the Association of Ontario Midwives. Alisa holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina.

Sarah Mughal, Director of Service Innovation

Sarah Mughal, MPH, currently works for Kids Help Phone as the Director of Service Innovation, responsible for reimagining Kids Help Phone's services along an adapted stepped care model to improve accessibility across Canada. Since 2018, Sarah has also sat on the Mental Health Commission of Canada's technical committee developing the National Standard for the Mental Health and Well-Being of Post-Secondary students, and is incredibly proud to be a part of this important work. Prior to her current positions, Sarah spent the past decade in mental health advocacy, community education, and suicide prevention both nationally and internationally. She's currently based in Toronto, and is thrilled to be joining the Frayme Learning Institute.


Key Learnings

  • Kids Help Phone supports 900-1500 young people and saves ~11 lives every day.
  • Using a modified stepped care solution, Kids Help Phone is trying to create an integrated and innovative service continuum to amplify access to e-mental health solutions for young people.
  • Kids Help Phone is making investments to strengthen data and technology infrastrucutre and preparing to share data externally.

Thoughts from those with Lived/Living Expertise

What are some of the highlights?

  • The program was re-designed with a focus on improved User Experience / User Interface for youth and improving access to peer support. This included a clear focus on tracking Key Performance Indicators and data analytics in order to understand the efficacy of the new programming.
  • A matching program was developed and launched for Indigenous/Inuit/Metis youth.

How can information gained be used? 

  • Stepped Care can be especially helpful for youth who are first accessing mental health services but there may also be a challenge around how to integrate folks who are already receiving care and choosing the order of the steps.

What are the implications?

  • Creating a clearer process of how to navigate the mental health system through steps can remove barriers for youth, as a common challenge for youth navigating the system is feeling like the process is unclear or random.
  • Having clearly laid out steps from the onset of care seems like something which could help youth better understand the process and path that they are on.

What would you like to know more about?

  • How can folks be integrated into stepped-care who are already receiving concurrent care at several levels of the different steps?
  • What are the considerations for cultural appropriateness or folks from different equity-seeking groups with these digital solutions? How could stepped care address things like language barriers, technology barriers (connection in rural communities, access to devices), etc?

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