News release

Innovative Work Leads to Better Mental Health and Addictions Care for Children, Youth and Families

Children and teenagers who need mental health and addictions help are getting better care, faster, as a result of innovative work at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

Over the last four years, access to community mental health and addictions care at the region’s children’s hospital has improved by 75 per cent. Young people who need emergency care are seen immediately and nearly all cases assessed as needing urgent care are seen in under four days.

For non-urgent care, 72 per cent are seen within 28 days and the average wait is 22 days.

The improvements are the result of new innovative practices that have led to faster access to the IWK’s community mental health and addictions services. This work has meant families accessing care, frontline staff and senior staff working together and sharing input to identify where changes could be made to improve care.

“I am pleased to see the success the IWK has had in improving access to care by working with families and clinicians. This work is making a positive difference to those looking for support as well as those caring for them,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey.

The work focuses on four areas, access, quality of care, productivity and staff satisfaction. All have seen positive results:

  • 75 per cent improvement in wait times
  • 98 per cent of patients and families report satisfaction in the quality of care
  • 82 per cent of staff report high levels of satisfaction
  • 90 per cent of appointments are attended, due to changes to IWK’s referral and intake system which fills cancelled appointments

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis should call the 24/7 toll-free provincial Mental Health Crisis Line at 1-888-429-8167. The line provides crisis intervention for children, youth and adults.


Our system has grown and changed in unbelievable ways over the past eight years. This has been a true team effort. As clinicians, we are striving to be transparent in our processes and engaging with families in new and innovative ways. It’s exciting. Dr. Sharon Clark, advanced practice leader, IWK Mental Health and Addictions program

The IWK has been a valuable partner to our mental health-care staff and clients, and instrumental in assisting us in navigating the processes and care of complex cases, providing staff education and consultation and inviting us to joint training opportunities. The IWK has been incredibly open and willing to learn from us about the unique cultural, traditional, historical and linguistic needs of our mutual clients. Our experiences and journey with the IWK have been progressing working toward a two-eyed seeing system of care. Sharon Rudderham, director, Eskasoni Health Centre

The IWK Mental Health and Addictions staff were absolutely wonderful. They were kind, caring, and professional. I was invited into a team-based, focused approach, that while sympathetic to my child’s condition, affects it had on our family, they were first of mind to support my daughter’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Nursing staff demonstrated leadership in managing my child’s illness while providing treatment during some very stressful days. Suzanne MacDonald, mother of IWK patient

Quick Facts:

  • IWK provides community mental health and addictions services for children, youth and families who live in Halifax Regional Municipality and intensive inpatient and day treatment services for children and youth across Nova Scotia and the Maritimes
  • the Nova Scotia Health Authority provides community mental health and addictions services for adults, and children and youth living in other parts of Nova Scotia
  • other mental health resources for children and teens include SchoolsPlus (expanded to all schools in the province), adolescent outreach programs in northern, western and eastern zones, and youth health centres in schools
  • Nova Scotians who need help can contact their local community mental health and addictions clinics and programs, or call 1 855 922-1122 from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Additional Resources:

IWK Health Centre Mental Health and Addictions:

Mental Health Investments Improving Wait Times for Crisis and Urgent Care:

Choice and Partnership Approach:

Overview of government’s approach to mental health and addictions:


Media Contacts:

Heather Fairbairn
Health and Wellness 902-717-2151 Email:
Nick Cox
IWK Health Centre 902-470-6345 or 902 225-1781 Email: