Dr. Anna Felstrom, USask assistant professor of psychiatry, leads the CanREACH-SK program’s training delivery in Saskatchewan. (Credit: University of Saskatchewan)

New physician training program at USask supports child mental health

SASKATOON – A new program at the University of Saskatchewan’s (USask) College of Medicine is helping Saskatchewan physicians and nurse practitioners better support pediatric mental health needs in the province.

Called CanREACH-SK, it delivers the Patient-Centered Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care (PPP) Mini-Fellowship developed by the REACH (REsource for Advancing Children’s Health) Institute in New York. This program provides up-to-date, evidence-based training for care providers assessing, diagnosing and treating pediatric mental health conditions. 

“The ability to address the mental health needs of the children in our province is a priority and this program is an innovative way to enhance necessary skills to provide that vital support,” said Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors, and Rural and Remote Health, Everett Hindley.  

The college is the first Canadian medical school and the second organization in the country licensed to offer this program. The CanREACH-SK PPP Mini-Fellowship includes an interactive 15-hour course focused on building skills and confidence in diagnosing and treating pediatric behavioural health problems followed by a six-month, case-based learning program. Participants work with primary care and child and adolescent psychiatry experts to manage pediatric mental health issues encountered in daily practice.  

The fellowship is offered through the college’s division of Continuing Medical Education (CME).  

“We are grateful to the Ministry of Health and to CME for their support in delivering this intensive course,” said Dr. Anna Felstrom, USask assistant professor of psychiatry, who leads the CanREACH-SK program’s training delivery in Saskatchewan. “In other areas of North America, this program has facilitated improved patient outcomes and wait-times for service, and we are already starting to see the same effect here in Saskatchewan. This program is helping to broaden the team of physicians and nurse practitioners who can effectively deliver child and adolescent psychiatry care in their practices, which is very exciting.” 
As part of the steps toward licensure, over the past two years, 50 health-care providers have completed the training and 25 participants are currently enrolled in the program. The next cohort, which will be offered virtually, is scheduled for Jan. 28-31, 2021, with registration now open. 
“We know there’s a need to provide better mental health care for children and youth in the province,” said Dr. James Barton, associate dean of CME. “This CanREACH-SK training addresses that need.” 
The program is funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, which supports the work of primary health-care providers in early intervention and treatment of mental health conditions.