Homelessness Mental Health ADHD Program

The Cause

Imagine having a curable disorder. Imagine having a disorder so curable that it will immediately help you focus, concentrate and help you get back on your feet. This is the case for hundreds of Calgary's homeless youth and adults who suffer from ADHD.

Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood and is characterized by inattention, significant functional impairment, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. In adults, ADHD can be isolating due to occupational, social, and functional impairments. Plus, adults with an ADHD diagnosis have higher rates of comorbid diagnoses including substance abuse, personality disorders, and eating disorders.

ADHD is treatable, but gaining access to mental health professionals and medications in Alberta is difficult. Waiting lists are long and setting appointments through Alberta Health Services can take up to a year. Moreover, uninsured and underinsured individuals have no coverage to pay for the treatment they desperately need.

Located in downtown Calgary, CUPS ADHD Clinic provides specialized ADHD counseling, diagnosis and prescription access all in one place. Moreover, CUPS offers wrap-around health care and social services to individuals who are homeless or struggling with the challenges of poverty. Our Shared Care Mental Health team works alongside health practitioners to assist patients struggling with multi-morbid chronic medical conditions, psychiatric diagnoses, and substance abuse.

In June 2015, our Shared Care Mental Health team was awarded the Collaborative Mental Health Care Award sponsored by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA). This highly recognized team is endeavouring to develop a clinic that addresses the unique needs of adults with ADHD living in poverty, which will be the first of its kind in Alberta.

Who Will it Benefit?

Our primary beneficiaries of this program will be homeless adults living with ADHD. Once diagnosed and in treatment, clients will experience improved social functioning and a better quality of life. We expect to see ADHD normalized through psychoeducational group sessions focused on ADHD coping skills, and one-on-one counseling. A recent waiting room survey for ADHD revealed a positive rate of about 45%, which is much higher than the average population rate of 4.4%. Most of the patients had no previous diagnosis of ADHD, and therefore had no understanding of the condition they may be struggling with.

The ADHD Group (thus far) has been a success with an above average retention rate and positive feedback from all participants. Due to the success of the program and preliminary findings, we submitted an abstract to “Growing Ideas: The 17th Annual Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Care Conference” put on by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Psychiatric Association. Our abstract was accepted and we have been asked to present a one hour workshop in Kelowna in June. This initiative is the first of its kind in Canada and likely the world.