Narrowing The Gap In Mental Health Care For Youth: Dr. Leslie Anne Campbell Holds First-Ever Chair In Child & Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes

Dr. Leslie Anne CampbellHealth services researcher Dr. Leslie Anne Campbell is on a mission to help transform the way mental illness in young people is treated and tracked – through patient-centred outcomes research.

The inaugural Sobey Family Chair in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes, Dr. Campbell is working closely with members of the IWK Health Centre’s Mental Health & Addictions team and many others to close a gap she recognized early on, while working as a mental health nurse.  

“It was while I was working with my patients and their families that I recognized that we needed support in knowing that we were providing the right care to the right patient at the right time,” says Campbell, an assistant professor in the Department of Community Health & Epidemiology at Dalhousie University.  “I wanted to know how we could ensure that the best evidence available could be used for each patient, and how we would know as soon as possible when that care was or wasn’t working. I wanted to be sure that patients didn’t end up back in hospital when they wanted to be at home with their families, going to school, or hanging out with their friends.” Drawing upon her clinical experience and diverse quantitative methods of research, Dr. Campbell leads several local and national collaborations that promote the use of outcomes research and have the potential to impact mental health services for youth across Canada.

For example, Dr. Campbell received a TRIC grant to introduce iPads to IWK’s community mental health clinics so that patients and families can fill out a questionnaire electronically rather than with pencil and paper.  While the previous method took considerable time to be recorded and analysed, the electronic questionnaire gives patients, families and clinical staff, such as psychologists and social workers, a reliable, real-time picture of how well the young person is functioning in important areas in their life.

As a patient fills out the questionnaire, their answers are automatically entered into a database, scored, and made available for their clinician to use during their appointment. 

“This routine outcome measurement (ROM) also offers the opportunity to monitor patients’ personal treatment goals,” says Dr. Campbell. “Research indicates that ROM improves patients’ outcomes, reduces unnecessary treatments, shortens length of treatment, and improves satisfaction with mental health services.”

Among Dr. Campbell’s numerous research projects, she is working to address the growing rates of presentation to emergency departments by children and youth experiencing mental health crises. She has recently received CIHR funding to engage patients and families in this program of research.

The first Chair of its kind in Canada, the Sobey Family Chair in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes is a cross appointment between the IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University, and was made possible by members of the Sobey family.