- Child and Adolescent Mental Health Initiative (CAMHI)
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Initiative (CAMHI) in Greece has been developing and growing since its inception in 2021, in partnership with the Child Mind Institute and a countrywide network of public child mental health providers and with support from the Hellenic Ministry of Health. The inaugural CAMHI conference held in Athens on January 26, 2023, was a unique occasion bringing together the country’s mental health and child protection community, along with international partners, for a rich discussion on priorities in the field and the initiative’s capacity-building effort to help address them.
In February 2023, the relevant Grant Agreement between SNF and the Greek state was ratified and incorporated into national legislation (law no. 5015/2023), delineating the scope and programmatic pillars of the CAMHI as well as provisions for ensuring continuity and sustainability of the initiative after the five-year pilot implementation period supported by the Foundation.
Further to the establishment of the initiative’s regional hubs in Alexandroupoli, Ioannina, and Heraklion, in recent months, the CAMHI advanced partnerships with the child mental health clinics of Papanikolaou, Ippokateio, and AHEPA hospitals as well as with the Paidon Agia Sofia Children’s Hospital for the formalization of the hubs in Thessaloniki and Athens, respectively. The corresponding Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) have been drafted and agreed with the aforementioned parties and will be submitted for execution within September.
At the same time, preparations for the rollout of the CAMHI basic and advanced trainings are fully underway, including in consultation with local school communities, with a target of commencing pilot implementation in the five above regions gradually within the year. Training priorities have been largely informed by the results of the CAMHI’s Landscape Analysis published in early July 2023. The analysis includes findings of an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on child and adolescent mental health in Greece, a summary of laws and policies substantiating a rights-based approach to mental health, results from a nationwide survey of almost 4,000 parents, teenagers, teachers, and mental health professionals, as well as a mapping of available child mental health and educational services across the country.
This summer also marked the conclusion of the first and pilot year of implementation of the Youth Engagement Scheme (YES), the CAMHI’s dedicated platform for listening to the voices of young people and integrating them into all aspects of the initiative’s design and delivery. During the 2022-2023 school year, four Youth Advisory Groups were established in Athens, Thessaloniki, Alexandroupoli, and Ioannina, in each of which 15-25 adolescents participated. With official approval from the Ministry of Education, a total of 82 teenagers from diverse school contexts and backgrounds, participated in the four YES Groups, meeting locally on a monthly basis with the support of specialized coordinators and facilitators as well as local psychosocial professionals from the CAMHI network. Overall, more than 1,650 children and adolescents from 40 different schools participated in activities and workshops organized by the YES program. Their ideas, feedback, and input brought to the spotlight adolescents’ concerns and views on specific issues affecting their mental health and wellbeing, all of which are being considered and incorporated in the strategic design of the CAMHI.
Implementation of the YES program will resume in the start of the 2023-2024 academic year, with plans to grow even further to include a new Youth Advisory Group in Crete as well as for greater outreach to marginalized youth.
- Renovation Works at Paidon Agia Sofia Children’s Hospital in Athens
As provided by the Global Health Initiative’s umbrella legislation, a building at the Paidon Agia Sofia Children’s Hospital will be renovated and outfitted through an SNF grant to house the Athens hub of the CAMHI network, in partnership with the hospital’s Department of Child Psychiatry. The renovated building will include dedicated training spaces and assessment rooms to enable the Department’s clinical and educational work in the context of the CAMHI, as well as a new green area for young visitors.
As per official process, the preliminary design study of the project has been concluded and approved by the hospital’s Technical Department and the regional health authority (YPE). The final design study is currently underway, in continued collaboration with end users and the CAMHI team. In accordance with law no. 4812/2021, the individual Grant Agreement between SNF and the Greek state has been finalized and will be submitted for ratification within the calendar month. According to the current timeline, the renovation is slated for completion in late 2023.
- The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Global Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the Child Mind Institute
Τhe SNF Global Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the Child Mind Institute was established with a founding grant from SNF that came at a pivotal moment amidst widespread recognition of a global crisis in mental health and urgent calls for equitable, culturally sensitive, and evidence-based care.
Over the next five years, the SNF Global Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health will carry out a wide range of efforts across six intersecting initiatives to enhance mental health care for children and adolescents globally by increasing access to information and to high-quality, evidence-based care, and reducing stigma and discrimination.
Deeply informed by ongoing work on the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Initiative (CAMHI) in Greece, the SNF Global Center’s specific planned work includes conducting regional needs assessments, multi-cultural adaptation of free informational resources as well as treatment protocols, developing technological innovations for mental health care and assessment, creating fellowship programs for clinicians and researchers in low- and middle-income countries, and accelerating global collaboration through expert gatherings. All activities will include a cross-cutting emphasis on open data, two-way knowledge exchange, and empowering and amplifying local efforts with a view toward sustainability.
Currently within its first year of implementation, the grant has seen the following progress to date:
- Recruitment of key SNF Global Center leadership positions and staff, with additional positions under ongoing recruitment and the full staffing of the center expected to be completed within the calendar year.
- Selection of the two initial countries of focus for developing partnerships, South Africa and Brazil. SNF Global Center leadership has been holding discussions with local governments, academic institutions, non-governmental and community organizations, professional associations, representatives from public health facilities, and other stakeholders to gain greater familiarity with the context and needs in each location and determine the possible modalities for partnerships.
- The SNF Global Center team is also actively exploring partnerships with other institutions including UNICEF and the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP). These partnerships are expected support the SNF Global Center’s efforts with global surveys, as well as with forming global networks of professionals and expanding the reach of its fellowship program, which is expected to be initiated during the second year of the grant.
The SNF Global Center is assembling its International Advisory Council (IAC), targeting prominent and dynamic members of the global child and adolescent mental health community. Members of the Council are expected to be announced by the end of 2023 and will play a key role in advising and guiding the SNF Global Center strategy in the coming years. The Child Mind Institute will hold an official launch event for the SNF Global Center that will occur simultaneously with its first Expert Gathering bringing CAMH experts from around the world for targeted discussions on the Center’s work and strategy in October 2023 in New York.
- The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Center for Precision Psychiatry and Mental Health at Columbia University
In March 2023, the previously announced SNF Center for Precision Psychiatry and Mental Health at Columbia University in New York City was formally launched. Precision psychiatry, an emerging field at the nexus of multiple scientific disciplines, holds the unprecedented promise of highly efficacious personalized psychiatric care based on each individual’s unique genetic makeup and biology.
The new Center leverages Columbia’s leading work across the fields of genomics, neuroscience, and epidemiology, drawing on expertise at the Department of Psychiatry, the New York State Psychiatric Institute, the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, and the Columbia-affiliated New York Genome Center.
In keeping with the values of the Global Health Initiative, the Center’s leadership is fully committed to making the resources it develops open and available to the global mental health community. The Center is also committed to fighting inequality in mental health care by leveraging its partnerships to ensure that innovations are accessible to all, regardless of background.
The SNF Center team is currently working to hone their strategic approach and build their team. A formal launch event is being planned for later in 2023.
Recently, Columbia University conducted an interview with SNF Center co-director Professor Joseph Gogos, MD, PhD, about the Center’s mission. In addition, in June 2023, a comprehensive and inspiring article published in the Washington Post highlighted the approach of the new SNF Center and featured compelling patient stories which were subsequently discussed at the 2023 SNF Nostos Conference on mental health, held at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens on June 21-23.
- National Children’s Alliance (NCA)
In January 2023, SNF launched a new partnership with the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) to expand access to trauma therapy for children who have been victims of abuse. NCA is a national association and accrediting body for a network of nearly a thousand Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) across the United States, which provide integrated care and support for children who have been victims of abuse.
A shortage of therapists trained to deliver trauma-informed therapy for children remains a major gap that prevents at least 80 thousand children each year from accessing care. The new partnership seeks to help address this:
- Over the next 5 years, SNF will support NCA to launch and scale up a national training program for Child & Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI), an evidence-based treatment specifically designed for children and adolescents and shown to significantly reduce symptoms of traumatic stress.
- Trainings will be delivered to clinicians affiliated with CACs via the NCA Institute for Better Mental Health Outcomes, an academy focused on strengthening the workforce that addresses child trauma.
- NCA aims to train 1,000 clinicians who will reach up to 44,000 children by the end of the five-year grant, and 25 thousand children per year thereafter. SNF’s support helps to close a critical care gap, thus helping more children heal.
NCA will also develop resources that help clinicians deliver CFTSI via teletherapy to further enhance access and flexibility; fact sheets and videos for caregivers and clinicians are expected to be produced and disseminated by the end of 2023. The first three training courses have been set for October 2023, January 2024, and March 2024, with the first call for participation announced in June 2023.
- Tygerberg Hospital Children’s Trust (THCT)
Embarking on a new partnership under the GHI’s mental health pillar, SNF is supporting the Tygerberg Hospital Children’s Trust (THCT), a non-profit based in South Africa, to carry out renovations and other improvements to benefit the Adolescent Psychiatry Unit at Tygerberg Hospital, one of the country’s largest public facilities.
THCT’s mission is to raise support for maternal and pediatric units at Tygerberg Hospital, a public tertiary care facility in Western Cape province providing specialized care to a large and geographically dispersed population, including low-income and rural communities.
The Adolescent Psychiatry Unit at Tygerberg Hospital is Western Cape’s only tertiary assessment unit for adolescents (13-18 years old) with psychiatric disorders and manages some of the most complex cases of mental illness. Despite its critical role in the provincial health system, the unit requires significant infrastructural upgrades and renovations to ensure a sufficiently adolescent-friendly, inviting, and safe space.
Over the next two years, SNF support will enable THCT to address critical needs of the Adolescent Psychiatry Unit, contributing to a vision of a more functional and adolescent-friendly space that promotes healing. Areas of support include:
- Repairs, upgrades, furnishings, and aesthetic improvements within the ward;
- Activities, sports, crafts, and games to engage and stimulate patients in healthy ways, as well as access to educational technology; and
- Transforming the unit’s dedicated and secure outdoor space into a garden and an area for recreation, physical activity, individual reflection, and contact with nature.
It is expected that about 300 adolescents annually will benefit from the improvements once completed, along with unit staff who will be able to better serve their patients. The THCT is planning and coordinating with hospital management and clinical units, with the planned works to be initiated within the Unit before the end of the 2023 calendar year.