Emerging Idea: Ontario's First Mobile Health Unit for Adolescent Health

Rationale / Objectives

75% of adults with mental health issues report that their struggles began in adolescence. In addition, 1 in 5 Canadians are reported to suffer from mental illness. To help provide adolescents with access to mental health and other preventive care services, the Mobile York South Simcoe (MOBYSS) was introduced as Ontario’s first mobile mental health clinic. MOBYSS was created through collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and Markham Stouffville Hospital. 

Project/Program Description & Major Achievements

MOBYSS was established following community consultations regarding the region’s lack of mental health services for youth. The retrofitted MOBYSS RV brings services to young people, specifically targeting those aged 12 to 25. The 39-foot RV contains a private exam room, a curtained off space for one-on-one counselling and an open lounge. The bus travels to local high schools and community centres. In addition to mental health services, preventive care services are also provided including sexual education, lab services, etc. A nurse practitioner, a peer support specialist, and a youth mental health worker are on board six days a week with the team conducting follow-ups from the office on the seventh day. MOBYSS has an app that includes schedule and location information as well as links to useful resources.

Lessons Learned

The MOBYSS program helps reduce barriers that some youth may have to accessing care. The RV travels to where patients are located further reducing transportation barriers. 

Further Description

The idea for the RV is based on The Alex, a community health centre in Calgary that operates three mobile clinics: a community health bus, a youth health bus, and a dental health bus. MOBYSS offers health care services by a nurse practitioner and other staff in a walk-in environment. Confidential services provided include assessment, diagnosis and treatment of acute illnesses, preventative healthcare, wound care, lab testing and medical referrals which include video access to specialists on the bus. The sexual health services offered are confidential, and use a welcoming and non-judgmental approach. Services include contraception and emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and counseling, testing and treatment for STIs, cervical screening and pelvic exams, sexual orientation support and sexual health education. MOBYSS provides mental health services such as counseling, support and referrals. The Youth Mental Health Workers and Peer Support Specialists are trained in assisting youth with issues such as depression and anxiety, substance use, suicide risk, bullying, harm and risk reduction, and issues unique to LGBTQ youth. MOBYSS is funded through a variety of sources and sponsors including the Markham Stouffville Hospital Foundation.

Major Achievements

In its first 18 months in the streets, the MOBYSS unit saved at least three lives. In addition, the staff have seen 4,170 patients since its launch; representing 230 individuals per month. More than half of the youth served are between 12 and 20 years old. More than 40% of all appointments required mental health counselling, thereby filling a gap in terms of access to mental wellness. This case study will be updated as data becomes available.