One year in, The Summit transforms mental health care for youth in Calgary

Cameron Mitchell is a participant in Kara Murias’s study investigating rTM
Cameron Mitchell is a participant in Kara Murias’s study investigating rTMS as a treatment for ADHD. Kelly Johnston, Cumming School of Medicine
Every patient has an opportunity to improve the outcome for the next young person to walk in the front door

There’s an audible series of clicks, and once the electromagnetic coil is dialed in to deliver the perfect amount of stimulation to the brain, an involuntary twitch of the finger.

These are among the few indications transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is taking place for the young girl relaxing in a dentist-style chair, as one of the volunteers for groundbreaking research into the non-pharmaceutical treatment of ADHD in children.

"Each study participant gets a single session of repetitive TMS stimulation to one of two different areas in the brain that we know are associated with specific ADHD-related functions," explains Dr. Kara Murias, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM).

"Then we’ll compare and see what improvement they have and if there’s more improvement in certain cognitive skills, depending on where they received stimulation."

Murias’s study into rTMS treatment of ADHD is just one of the UCalgary research projects taking place at The Summit: Marian and Jim Sinneave Centre for Youth Resilience. It’s been just over a year since The Summit opened, transforming mental health care for youth in the Calgary area.

The city’s first designated clinic for young people dealing with mental health concerns, the colourful, welcoming building, funded by $50 million in community support through the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, is far removed from traditional hospitals and emergency rooms.

In parallel with walk-in counselling for anyone under 18 years of age at the Owerko Family Walk In, it also offers treatment and support programs for patients and their families through the Tallman Family Treatment Services. The Summit’s research arm is bolstered by the same young people who visit the clinic, with every patient asked if they would like to take part in research.

Mental Health Research 4 Kids (MHR4K), as the program is called, is a partnership between Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary, and includes scientists from UCalgary’s Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute.

Through MHR4K, every child and adolescent seen at The Summit has an opportunity to improve the outcome for the next young person to walk in the front door by joining a registry and sharing information about their mental health journey.

There are a multitude of studies aimed to improve mental health treatment in children and youth. They currently include:
  • PGx-SParK, a pharmacogenetics research program with 1,300 participants across all four western provinces, providing Agenetic information that can be used by physicians to transform and focus care.
  • Trajectories of Youth Mental health (TYM), a study aimed at identifying genetic and environmental predictors of the long-term course of mental health disorders and using this knowledge to develop and test novel interventions.
  • A study focused on discovering genetic variants linked to ADHD treatment response.
  • Facing Your Fears, an anxiety intervention study based on group Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy for children and youth diagnosed with autism and ADHD. The community-based program provides treatment and trains health professionals to build more capacity to help families.

"The Summit is a game changer in terms of accessible clinical care, and something we never had before is where that clinical care is integrated with cutting-edge science discovery," says Dr. Paul Arnold, MD, PhD, director of the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research & Education.

"We are developing a learning health environment in which every patient and their family are invited to complete research measures and this information is used to improve their care."

Under the joint leadership of Arnold and Susan Graham, PhD, director of the Owerko Centre for Neurodevelopment and Child Mental Health, the MHRK program at The Summit is looking back on an amazing first year.

"I would say if anything the past year has highlighted how we could build four more of these in Calgary and have research embedded in all’of them," says Graham.

"For me, gratitude is the key emotion at this point. I feel grateful for the community support that allowed us to create such an incredible centre, and I feel grateful that children and youth and families in Calgary now have access to the clinical services offered at The Summit and the opportunity to drive mental health research forward."