A care pathway helps guide children, young people and families to, through and out of care. It ensures that families get the right service at the right time and in the right way to best meet their child or youth's mental health needs.

Why we need pathways

Families often feel lost when looking for mental health help for their children and youth. Most of them turn first to their family doctors or end up in emergency departments. But even doctors struggle to connect families to the care they need — because primary care and community-based mental health settings don't always have a seamless connection to one another.

How pathways help

In a high-quality mental health system, care pathways are accessible, efficient and effective. They reflect coordination between multiple providers and create better continuity of care. Partners in different care settings work together to create a clear plan that shows which services or care activities can be accessed, along with information about when and how to do so. That's why care pathways also help ensure that both families and care providers can more easily navigate the mental health system.

Our work on care pathways

Early childhood

In 2019 we published Beyond building blocks: Investing in the lifelong mental health of Ontario's three- to six-year-olds and immediately set about implementing one of its key recommendations: to strengthen partnerships to create efficient care pathways for mental health services for children from birth to six years of age.

Primary care pathways

In 2017 we set out to bridge the gap between primary care and community-based mental health services. We published Paving the path to connected care: Strengthening the interface between primary care and community-based child and youth mental health services and committed to put key recommendations from that policy paper into action. Now, Primary care pathways includes seven demonstration sites, putting pathways to the test in communities across Ontario.

Quality improvement

Care pathways are the current focus of our continuous quality improvement program, Quest. Selected teams are coached through an improvement project that builds organizational capacity for quality improvement and has the potential for system-level impact.