Gateway Gazette

Teamwork Turns Young Lives Around

Bonnyville’s Child & Adolescent Mental Health Collaborative focuses on finding help for troubled youth

Story by Erika Dart

Members of the Bonnyville Child & Adolescent Mental Health Collaborative — Kathy Pelham, mental health therapist, left; Alena Thompson, mental health navigator; and Chantal Vallee, nurse practitioner — discuss a case.

BONNYVILLE — Amber Porter’s eight-year-old son Logan is funny, sweet and witty. But he also struggled more than other kids — breaking things, hitting people and was unable to manage his emotions.

Last year, Logan was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), after his restlessness and disruptiveness in school was noticed.

“He’d have huge temper tantrums,” says Porter. “They’d go on for six hours sometimes, past midnight. He just couldn’t calm down. He’d knock everything off the counter; he’d throw things. He’s so fast. You would just turn your back and he’d find something to destroy.”

But after being connected with the Bonnyville Child & Adolescent Mental Health Collaborative, life has changed for Logan and his family.

“Overall, he’s a whole different kid now,” says Porter, who adds that help in ensuring Logan receives the right medications has been key. “He’s not perfect but no child is. He’s definitely closer to being your average little boy.”

The collaborative, which formed in 2016, focuses on treating anxiety, depression and ADHD. It connects each family with a team that includes the child’s school, their physician or nurse practitioner, a mental health therapist and a mental health navigator. The clinic provides screening, assessment, a treatment plan and then ongoing follow-up as needed to ensure the plan is working.

The concept of a multidisciplinary team was brought forward by physicians who were seeing kids coming through the emergency department and walk-in clinic already in crisis, with issues including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

“The idea was to focus more on education and prevention to keep kids from getting to that point,” says Alena Thompson, the collaborative’s mental health navigator. “The multidisciplinary approach is so important. Now we’re sharing information, working together, collaborating.”

When a team of professionals comes together for a child, that work can be done in a more comprehensive way, says Reggie Jackson, AHS Area Addiction and Mental Health Manager.

“We can look at things holistically when we bring together all these different perspectives,” he says.

Porter says working with the collaborative has made a world of difference.

“I felt like I have a lot of support and there is always someone available when I have a question,” she says. “It helps so much that we’re all working together. Everybody is on the same page.”

The Bonnyville Child & Adolescent Mental Health Collaborative Clinic sees clients by referral once a week at the Bonnyville Medical Clinic. For more information, please call 780-815-1534.

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