Research confirms effectiveness of innovative early intervention program for youth

First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program ensures young adults receive the care they need, when they need it

June 25, 2015

A study by Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University has confirmed the effectiveness of the pathway to care used in London’s innovative First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program (FEMAP). 

Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, a researcher at Lawson and psychiatrist at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), and her team have found that FEMAP is helping youth access the most appropriate treatment at the right time, without leading to overuse of specialty services. 

“FEMAP is a safe and confidential place to get help early, before symptoms severely disrupt lives,” says Dr. Osuch. “We found that the model is servicing youth experiencing the onset of functional impairment caused by a mood and/or anxiety disorder. In addition, self-referrals are leading to appropriate specialty services being provided, without causing overuse.” 

A first of its kind in Canada, the program features an ‘open door’ model inviting older teens and young adults affected by mood and anxiety disorders to self-refer rather than having to first see a family doctor or visit a hospital for assessment.

“FEMAP opened its doors in 2006 as a new and unique approach. Our research confirms that young adults have been receiving the care they need, when they need it.”

Upon young adults independently accessing FEMAP, a detailed intake assessment is completed with recommendations for the most appropriate treatment – FEMAP or other programs. Assistance is then provided to promote quick access to services. 

The youth seeking help for mood and/or anxiety concerns had severe levels of depression and moderately high levels of anxiety. They also had clinically significant levels of functional impairment, meaning that their day-to-day lives were being impacted by their symptoms. 

“By doing a quick screening and a careful, thorough clinical assessment, services delivered by specialist physicians, such as psychiatrists, were only being delivered to youth who truly needed that level of care,” explains Dr. Osuch. “The mental health care needs of youth with moderate to severe mental illness are being identified effectively through FEMAP’s self-referral option.”

“Process Evaluation of an Early-Intervention Program for Mood and Anxiety Disorders Among Older Adolescents and Young Adults” was published in the prominent Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association. 

FEMAP is part of LHSC’s Adult Mental Health Services and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry providing quality patient care and conducting innovative research on the causes, preventions and treatments of mood and anxiety disorders. 

Dr. Osuch is also an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and is the Dr. Joseph Rea Chair in Mood Disorders.