A Tale of Two Communities: A Deep Dive into Community-Led Youth Mental Health Hubs



A Tale of Two Communities

Senior Research and Policy Associate, Valerie Salt, reflects on her experiences as the PolicyWise lead on implementation during the pilot phase and ongoing evaluation of the community-led youth mental health hubs project.

Time and relationships are essential to launching community-led integrated service delivery.

These elements are also unpredictable. From my years of experience, I’ve learned that the journey to integrating service delivery is complex. It’s unique to each community and definitely not linear. There is a lot of collaboration and relationship-building that goes on behind the scenes in communities to prepare for integrated service delivery. It takes significant time to build connections, shared goals, and trust. It cannot be rushed. Unfortunately, this foundational work may not look like progress according to external evaluation measures. This can be a challenge. Expectations tied to funding are that progress will be linear. More funding comes with higher expectations for integrated service delivery to be operational within the funding period. This can set communities up to fail and doesn’t honour the iterative implementation philosophy.


The experiences of one community provides a cautionary tale. This community was funded to ‘plan and prepare’ for integrated services delivery. That means, the necessary relationships were expected to be in place. The focus was on how to undertake collaborative service delivery, not on setting up governance structures. The reality, however, was different. Through preliminary planning work this community realized their capacity and readiness for collaboration across governance and frontline providers needed strengthening. Everyone was not on the same page. On top of that, COVID-19 had changed their circumstances. What they needed was to revisit their governance structure. But, the pressure to move forward into operations was significant. In the end, the community was able to pause. They revised their plans and set a strong foundation. They are now preparing to relaunch collaborative service delivery.

Another community highlights an alternative pathway to integrated services delivery. They were funded to build capacity and readiness over two years. Stakeholders, including youth, came together to develop a shared understanding of how their collaboration would benefit youth in their community. With time and the resources provided – a provincial implementation framework, coaching, and a learning network – they built a solid foundation for collaboration. Removing the pressure to ‘move forward’ enabled them to take it slow and pivot in the face of a pandemic. Ultimately, they achieved their goals of creating a strong governance structure while planning and preparing a for community-led, provincially-supported youth mental health hub that will begin service delivery in early 2022.