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March 15, 2021
Baycrest helps launch national knowledge sharing network on seniors’ mental health
The new program builds a community of practice of healthcare workers focused on providing mental health care to older adults affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada
This month, Baycrest, along with the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH) and the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry have launched Project ECHO Care of the Elderly: Mental Health, a network of health care providers sharing best practices and expanding knowledge and skills around mental health supports for older adults in Canada. The project, funded by the RBC Foundation, is the first of its kind in the country and, along with general information about mental health and older adults, also addresses the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the older adult population, including the increase in depression and anxiety due to social isolation.
Sessions under the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes model (ECHO) model create knowledge-sharing communities of primary care providers through video conferences. The ECHO model uses an approach that allows experts to lead case-based discussions, increasing the knowledge sharing opportunities between primary care providers to deliver great care to patients across the country.
“We know that older adults are suffering in many different ways because of the pandemic, specifically when it comes to social isolation and the practical issues associated with COVID-19,” said Dr. David Conn, Vice President of Education, Baycrest and founding Co-Chair, CCSMH. “This makes it very difficult for older adults everywhere, whether they are living in the community, in structured residential settings or in rural areas.”
The ECHO model is a world-renowned guided practice model that reduces health disparities in under-served and remote areas. The program gives healthcare professionals access to connect with specialists and other practitioners across the country through didactic and engaging sessions, encouraging learning partners to gain skills and knowledge in a multi-directional way.
“If you think of the size of Canada and the small number of geriatric psychiatrists and geriatricians available, you understand the problem that older adults living in rural areas are facing when it comes to specialized care if you don’t live in a major city,” said Dr. Conn. “Our goal with this program is to expand the access to specialized care, giving healthcare professionals the opportunity to learn from others in different communities who are struggling with the same challenges, or perhaps have had great successes with similar cases.”
The Project ECHO Care of the Elderly: Mental Health program is an extension of Baycrest’s participation in three other provincial programs: Project ECHO Care of the Elderly: Community, Project ECHO Care of the Elderly: Dementia and Project ECHO Care of the Elderly: Long-Term Care, currently funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and focused on improving provider knowledge and efficacy with managing chronic diseases.
The programs consistently evaluate their effect on the professional community, by evaluating changes in  knowledge, self-efficacy, engagement, and behaviour (e.g., adoption of new tools among learning partners). It has seen great success thus far and it is hoped that this new national chapter will have a beneficial effect on those in need. 
For more information on Project ECHO – Care of the Elderly, visit 

About Baycrest

Baycrest is a global leader in geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, innovation and education, with a special focus on brain health and aging. Baycrest is home to a robust research and innovation network, including one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience, the Rotman Research Institute; the scientific headquarters of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, Canada’s largest national dementia research initiative; and the Baycrest-powered Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation, a solution accelerator focused on driving innovation in the aging and brain health sector. Baycrest helps aging adults assess, monitor, maintain and enhance cognition through an innovative portfolio of evidence-based products and services offered through its brain health company, Cogniciti. Fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest provides excellent care for older adults combined with an extensive clinical training program for the next generation of healthcare professionals. Through these initiatives, Baycrest has remained at the forefront of the fight to defeat dementia as our organization works to create a world where every older adult enjoys a life of purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Founded in 1918 as the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home, Baycrest continues to embrace the long-standing tradition of all great Jewish healthcare institutions to improve the well-being of people in their local communities and around the globe.
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Michelle Petch Gotuzzo                              
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