Established in 2008, the Sinneave Family Foundation (Sinneave) is committed to improving the transition to adulthood for individuals with autism. Up to 70 percent of this population experience mental health challenges that can interfere with their ability to participate in school, work and community activities. Sinneave has convened a network of professionals in the area of mental health who are interested in building capacity to enhance access to mental health intervention for this vulnerable population.

This Mental Health and Autism Working Group, made up of more than 30 members across multiple disciplines, first came together on September 23, 2016 and meets approximately once every 3-4 months. The working group has drawn on its extensive collective experience in mental health as well as input from a family advisory committee to:

  • Identify the most pressing areas of need in mental health support in autism;
  • Review the current landscape of services and supports available to address priority needs;
  • Discuss collaborative and innovative strategies to address identified service gaps, and;
  • Investigate an Integrated Care Pathway model to support autism and mental health.

 

The working group identified the need for an evidence-based assessment protocol for adults that is cost-effective, timely and provides a connection to post-diagnostic support. They also identified the need for consultative support to primary care physicians and community pediatricians regarding mental health challenges, as well as for rapid access to psychiatry for assessment and medication–specific consultations. To inform ways forward to address these needs, Sinneave hosted a conversation with a Consultant Psychiatrist in developmental disabilities from Edmonton who specializes in mental health problems in people with developmental disabilities and has a specific interest in autism. The working group also created a Mental Health and Autism Resource List for professionals to become familiar with existing services in the autism field in Calgary.

The working group is currently developing plans and exploring partnerships to increase knowledge and build capacity among mental health practitioners. Its goals are to expand autism-informed mental health services and to create affordable and accessible education and training programs for individuals and families who are facing co-existing mental health challenges.

If you are interested in learning more about this Mental Health and Autism Working Group, please reach out to Sinneave’s Chief Strategy Officer, Katelyn Lowe at katelyn.lowe@sinneavefoundation.org. She will be happy to discuss how you can get involved in efforts to build capacity and enhance access to mental health intervention for this vulnerable population within your organization or service.

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