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Early Interv Psychiatry. 2019 Jun;13 Suppl 1:56-64. doi: 10.1111/eip.12819.

ACCESS Open Minds at the University of Alberta: Transforming student mental health services in a large Canadian post-secondary educational institution.

Vallianatos H1,2,3,4, Friese K1,3,4, Perez JM1,3,4, Slessor J1,3,4, Thind R1,3,4, Dunn J1,3, Chisholm-Nelson J4, Joober R4,5,6, Boksa P4,5, Lal S4,6,7,8, Malla A4,5,6, Iyer SN4,5,6, Shah JL4,5,6.

Author information

Office of the Dean of Students, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
ACCESS Open Minds University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
ACCESS Open Minds (Pan-Canadian Youth Mental Health Services Research Network), Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Prevention and Early Intervention Program for Psychosis (PEPP), Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
School of Rehabilitation, Faculty of Medicine, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CRCHUM), Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Demands for mental health services in post-secondary institutions are increasing. This paper describes key features of a response to these needs: ACCESS Open Minds University of Alberta (ACCESS OM UA) is focused on improving mental health services for first-year students, as youth transition to university and adulthood.


The core transformation activities at ACCESS OM UA are described, including early case identification, rapid access, appropriate and timely connections to follow-up care and engagement of students and families/carers. In addition, we depict local experiences of transforming existing services around these objectives.


The ACCESS OM UA Network has brought together staff with diverse backgrounds in order to address the unique needs of students. Together with the addition of ACCESS Clinicians these elements represent a systematic effort to support not just mental health, but the student as a whole. Key learnings include the importance of community mapping to developing networks and partnerships, and engaging stakeholders from design through to implementation for transformation to be sustainable.


Service transformation grounded in principles of community-based research allows for incorporation of local knowledge, expertise and opportunities. This approach requires ample time to consult, develop rapport between staff and stakeholders across diverse units and develop processes in keeping with local opportunities and constraints. Ongoing efforts will continue to monitor changing student needs and to evaluate and adapt the transformations outlined in this paper to reflect those needs.


Canada; accessibility; intake; post-secondary campus health services; service transformation; student mental health; youth mental health


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