Addressing complex needs is a priority focus area for us and our key system partners, including the child and youth mental health Lead Agency Consortium.

Why complex needs and intensive services matter

Some children or young people experience significant, multiple, rare or persistent mental health challenges that can impact their functioning at home, at school and in the community. Some have other conditions or challenges that impact the services they require, like developmental disabilities or substance use issues. Family socio-economic status and involvement in the child welfare and youth justice sectors can also add to the complexity of a young person’s situation.
Such needs often require intensive services, or more comprehensive or sustained interventions. There’s always been a need for evidence and services geared toward these complex issues — families have a hard time finding high quality treatment for young people with more significant needs. This is even more critical now, as the number of children and young people with complex needs has grown throughout the pandemic and their needs have become more acute.

Provincial training initiative

Through our participation on the steering committee, we provide evidence, implementation and evaluation supports for the provincial training initiative. This initiative is led by the child and youth mental health Lead Agency Consortium who is working to expand the range of intensive treatment options available throughout Ontario by equipping more direct service providers with the knowledge and skills they need to address complex needs through training, clinical supervision and a community of practice.


Secure treatment report

Children and young people with mental health disorders that have caused them to attempt to harm themselves or others may require treatment in secure settings. Legislation guides the province’s existing secure treatment programs, but the programs vary. In 2021, we were engaged by the Ministry of Health to generate recommendations to inform the development of a common framework for secure treatment programs for children and young people in Ontario.

This report summarizes evidence from a systemic review looking at secure treatment programs for children and young people in Canada and elsewhere and explores the evidence about how to support the best possible outcomes for children and young people in these programs. It provides an overview of what secure treatment is, who the clients are, why they are admitted, what services are delivered, how long clients stay, how clients are discharged, who else is involved, and what the outcomes tend to be.

Read the report

Mental health implications of undiagnosed learning disabilities among children and young people

Nearly 25% of young Canadians with disabilities of any kind have concurrent mental health-related disabilities and learning disabilities. The association between learning disabilities and mental health challenges is well documented, but what does the evidence show about the mental health implications for children and young people with undiagnosed learning disabilities? How does a diagnosis — or lack thereof — impact self-perception, educator and service provider perceptions and service effectiveness? This document probes these questions and more.

Read the evidence summary

Homelessness and young people’s mental health

Three quarters of young people experiencing homelessness in Canada report high psychological distress. The pandemic has interrupted many services for these young people and increased demand for mental health services across the board. With that in mind, we wanted to get a better sense of the mental health issues young people experiencing homeless face, who is at greatest risk for mental health and substance use problems and the types of interventions that can help. This document compiles evidence from literature published between 2016 and 2021. 

Read the evidence summary