The child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS)covering Banbury has undergone a ‘significant transformation’ its bosses say.
Managers say a new, single point of access where children can refer themselves, or their families or carers can ask for help, was the new key.
Numbers seeking help for mental health problems from depression and anxiety to self harming, bullying, abuse and suicidal thoughts have soared.
The Banbury Guardian ran a series of articles in May and June detailing the plight of youngsters in our area. Many families and schools felt children were going unseen and waits for help were too long.
Andrea Shand, Head of Service for Oxfordshire CAMHS told the Community Partnership Network: “Our referral rates - the ones we accept - are averaging 630 a month.October was the highest on record at 844.
“We’re averaging 250 (additional) calls a month where the young person or referrer is passed on to other services.”
Ms Shand said this figure too had spiked in October at 443 but increases in October were expected as schools observed pupils at the start of term.
“We’ve launched new pathways for getting help. It’s very much about building resilience out in the community with families, schools, education with third sector organisations.
“We are offering training with GPs and educating professionals. In November we also launched a full time service for assessment and treatment of young people with autism and ADHD. Parents can receive education, guidance and support.”
She said CAMHS used to take referrals only from professionals such as GPs, teachers and social workers.
The new ‘single point of access’ team allows young people, families and carers to refer and receive support from professional and administrative staff Monday - Friday, 8am - 6pm. A 24-7 emergency service exists.
“We are conducting hundreds of calls every month offering self-help strategies, signposting to alternative services if it’s not CAMHS,” said Ms Shand.
Ms Shand said the initial phone call is taken by non-qualified staff. “We have clear criteria with questions a bit like the 111 system so immediately we will know whether a young person or caller needs to speak directly to a qualified mental health practitioner.
“Our website accepts referrals directly into our computer system from young people, families, carers and professionals.
“The GPs in Oxfordshire have a direct (link) into our system. All requests for service are reviewed by a CAMHS mental health practitioner. We aspire to triage all referrals within 12 hours and inform the referrer within three days.”
The average waiting time is ten weeks from referral to assessment. Once assessed the young person goes straight into treatment. Ms Shand said those not accepted into the CAMHS service are offered help through other services.
Banbury charity BYHP has its own CAMHS in-worker. The service says third sector outreach programmes can engage hard-to-reach young people.
School teachers are being trained in various mental health conditions including eating disorders and self-harm.
CAMHS has introduced group intervention for mild mental health needs and a social anxiety group, both including a parenting session,.
Ms Shand said CAMHS has not changed its criteria but it has seen in a hike in demand as ‘austerity’ cuts have been made to children’s services.
“Capacity within the NHS isn’t quite there to meet that need. But we are piloting tele-phychiatry and an online cognitive behavioural therapy approach to low mental health and emotional well-being.”
She said high risk or significant cases would still be given face to face intervention but CAMHS was looking at ‘different ways’ to delivery interventions and engage with young people.
* What is your experience of the Oxfordshire CAMHS service? Have you had difficulty getting help for a young person or are you someone who feels they need help?
You can write to the Banbury Guardian on the email link at the top of the story. To call Oxfordshire CAMHS telephone 01865 902 515.