Research on mental health and substance use service standards for children, youth, and young adults


The Government of Canada, through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, is funding 25 research projects examining standards for mental health and substance use services for children, youth and young adults. The research projects will look at standards used in a variety of care settings, (e.g., primary care, juvenile justice or correctional settings, hospital emergency departments) for diverse populations, including Black, Indigenous, and racialized youth, among others.

The $4.7+ million research investment will provide a better understanding of what standards currently exist and how care providers and organizations use standards to deliver and improve care for young people and families affected by mental health and substance use issues. The investment will also help uncover the strategies that increase the likelihood of standards being adopted or applied through a learning health system approach (a health system where data, experience and evidence are put into practice to continuously improve health care and outcomes). The research results will contribute to the evidence base for pan-Canadian best practices or guiding principles that aim to provide all Canadian children, youth, and young adults (ages 0-25) with access to equitable, timely and evidence-based mental health and substance use care when and where they need it.

This investment is part of the Government of Canada’s Budget 2021 commitment to develop national mental health service standards in collaboration with provinces, territories, health organizations and key partners.

As well, the Government of Canada announced on February 7, 2023, an investment of $198 million over 10 years to improve health care services for Canadians. This investment includes funding to further help provide Canadians with a health care system that supports access to timely, equitable and quality mental health, substance use and addictions services. This is in addition to the Government of Canada $11 billion investment over 10 years under the Common Statement of Principles on Shared Health Priorities, which outlines common priorities for home and community care, and mental health and addictions services, and informed the development of bilateral agreements with provinces and territories.

Research projects

Children, youth, young adults, and their caregivers and families obtain mental health and substance use services from various access points. The research being funded will study several different settings, such as primary care, community sector, education, youth justice, child welfare, integrated youth services, Indigenous settings, and other specialized mental health and substance use settings. Several projects are also focused on underserved populations, including Indigenous youth, 2SLGBTQI+ youth, Black youth, and immigrant and refugee youth and families. This research will help shed light on the pressing needs of underserved populations who typically face barriers accessing equitable mental health and substance use services.

The projects are also looking at different types of standards. For example, some projects examine standards to improve system efficiencies, such as those meant to reduce wait times for a mental health program. Other projects are looking at standards for delivering culturally inclusive care, or wise practices to support Indigenous youth and communities. Lastly, many projects focus on intervention-specific standards, such as developing best practices for treating depression among adolescents or for treating eating disorders.

While some projects are based in specific provinces or territories, many are pan-Canadian in nature with collaborators spread across the country, further reenforcing the collaborative development of standards and wise practices throughout Canada.

For more information about the funding opportunity, please visit ResearchNet.

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