University of Saskatchewan launches new mental health training program for physicians

SASKATOON – A new training program that will better equip physicians to assess and treat mental health conditions in children and youth is launching this week in Saskatoon.

The REACH Institute’s Patient-Centered Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care program is being presented by the Continuing Medical Education (CME) Division at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), with $400,000 of funding from the Government of Saskatchewan.

“Mental health is a priority for our government,” Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter said. “This training program will better equip doctors to meet the mental health care needs of children and youth.”

During the three-day training session, 25 physicians from across Saskatchewan will participate in 16 hours of interactive course work to build their skills in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions in children and youth. Participants will then take part in a six-month case-based distance learning program to continue to advance their knowledge and skills in this area.

In addition, four child and youth psychiatrists, one pediatrician and four family doctors are currently working toward certification through The REACH Institute to deliver this course to Saskatchewan physicians.

“The program has the potential to significantly support the mental health of children and youth by enhancing general physicians’ skills to intervene early in psychiatric concerns,” provincial head of the Department of Psychiatry Dr. Marilyn Baetz said. “This will support more immediate active treatment, potentially reducing wait times for patients, and may even mean the child or youth when treated early will not need more specialized care.”

“This course is a component of a bigger plan to support care providers in Saskatchewan in managing patient care related to mental health issues,” CME Associate Dean Jim Barton said. “Our purpose at CME is to equip caregivers with knowledge and skills as they work to ensure the well-being of Saskatchewan people. We’re thrilled to be moving forward with a program focused on mental health.”

CME develops, co-ordinates and delivers a range of conferences, online courses and other programs supporting lifelong learning of medical doctors and other health-care providers. Their highly successful Indigenous Wellness online course, the Saskatchewan Emergency Medicine Annual Conference, and courses for both instructors and providers of perinatal care are some examples of CME’s role in supporting education for better health care.

This initiative supports Saskatchewan’s Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan, specifically the recommendation that government help primary care providers fulfil their vital role as the first contact and ongoing support for individuals with mental health and addictions issues.

The Ministry of Health funding for this initiative comes from the Canada-Saskatchewan Bilateral Funding Agreement. Announced in January 2017, the federal government is providing Saskatchewan with close to $350 million over 10 years for targeted incremental investments in home and community care and mental health and addiction services.

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For more information contact:

Kate Blau
University of Saskatchewan - College of Medicine

Shelley Svedahl
Ministry of Health - Government of Saskatchewan