Using a National Framework in Developing a Child and Youth Mental Health Plan in Yukon

Many of Canada's provinces and territories do not have explicit child and youth mental health policies or plans in place. A case study exploring the development of Yukon's child and youth mental health framework illuminates the benefits, and few limitations, of using Canada's national child and youth mental health framework as a tool for local policy development.

Citation

Mulvale G., Kutcher S., Randall G., Wakefield P., Longo C., Abelson J., Winkup J., & Fast M., "Do National Frameworks Help in Local Policy Development? Lessons from Yukon about the Evergreen Child and Youth Mental Health Framework," Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 34, 4, (2015).

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What is this research about?

There has been an increased policy focus towards ensuring that children and adolescents in Canada with mental disorders are able to access adequate care. Child and youth mental health policies have been identified as a priority and a means of addressing the complex series of factors that have contributed to the gap between care need and service use. Against this backdrop, the Mental Health Commission of Canada sponsored the development of Canada's national child and youth mental health framework, "Evergreen: A Child and Youth Mental Health Framework for Canada". Published in 2008, it serves as a tool for child and youth mental health policy development at the provincial and territorial level. The purpose of this research was to explore the impact of  Evergreen in the development of Yukon's child and youth mental health and addictions framework (CYMHAF).  

What did the researchers do?

Members of the research team  consisting of academics from McMaster University and Dalhousie University, as well as a member from the Yukon Government examined the extent to which national frameworks are useful in local policy development.  Through the use of a case study approach the team was able to map the points of intersection between Evergreen and CYMHAF. Secondly, the team compared the development processes of Evergreen and CYMHAF across three key themes (stakeholder engagement, generating framework content, and synthesizing content into a policy framework) and subsequently compared the content of Evergreen and CYMHAF with respect to values and tactics. Lastly, members of the team documented their own perspectives, and the perspectives of Yukon policy makers gathered through interviews, on how helpful Evergreen was in the development of CYMHAF. 

What did the researchers find?

First, the researchers found that Evergreen informed the development of CYMHAF by:

  • Promoting engagement with a broad range of stakeholders in order to understand the local context (ie. Yukon) and build support for the implementation of CYMHAF
  • Serving as introductory material to stimulate ideas about what CYMHAF might look like
  • Informing the questions that would be used in interviews with key stakeholders
  • Providing a database of information on other jurisdictions that are similar to Yukon and had experience developing child and youth mental health frameworks or programs
  • Serving as a reference to assess if the content of CYMHAF was comprehensive in terms of values and strategies

Secondly, the researchers found that Evergreen and CYMHAF were ultimately similar with respect to their inclusion of best evidence, involvement of a broad range of stakeholders in their development processes, and the sharing of several values and tactics, such as emphasizing timely access to coordinated care. On the other hand, the two frameworks differed in the research approach used in their development process, and components of the content and structure of CYMHAF included adaptations to better suit the Yukon context.
Finally, in their interviews with Yukon policy makers, the researchers found that most of them were aware of Evergreen and expected that it would be helpful in the development of CYMHAF. However, one policy-maker found Evergreen to be too all-inclusive, which at times can make it difficult to set priorities.  

How can you use this research?

This research may be useful to other provincial and territorial policy-makers. It presents several lessons regarding the use of a national framework for local policy development. It also illuminates the benefits of their application to various jurisdictions in order to effectively create child and youth mental health frameworks in their own local context. Additionally, this research may be useful to academics, as it prompts future research on the impact of national frameworks on the implementation of local policies. Finally, it may be of interest to the Yukon community in understanding the ways in which their local policies were informed and developed. 

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