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It's all in the family

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Andy Devlin

Getting families included in care.

That’s the aim with the official opening of the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation (EOCF) Family Room at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

A modified patient room, the space will give pediatric mental health patients and their families a welcoming, friendly environment to spend time together while in the hospital and while they await admission.

For the Mesh-Furlong family, it means a little more piece of mind each time they make the two-hour drive into the city for their daughter’s treatment.

“We’ve been coming to the hospital since Aliya has been diagnosed (at) five-years-old, she’s now 11, so six years,” said Jerome Furlong.

Located within the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Unit, the hockey-themed room includes murals that depict the Oilers Dressing Room and features a miniature NHL hockey rink floor design.

“It is so important that the space where we provide care to children, youth and families is warm, therapeutic and engaging,” said Mark Snaterse, Executive Director of Addiction and Mental Health at Alberta Health Services, in a press release.

“The Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation Family Room provides a colourful, quiet and relaxing environment for our families. It is a wonderful space that will make treatment and education more enjoyable and effective for the families we serve.”

Roughly 400 families every year access child and adolescent mental health services at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

According to Christine Mummery, Director of Alberta Health Services, Children, Youth, Families-Addiction and Mental Health, 27 per cent of kids that come to the Royal Alexandra Hospital come from outside of Edmonton.

“We really do appreciate the room. It will be very beneficial in engaging the parents and helping them feel really comfortable here in participating in our care and in the decisions about their child’s future,” she said.

The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Unit houses a multidisciplinary team that specializes in assessment, stabilization and diagnosis of youth aged six to 18 years of age.

“For the last 20 years at this unit, we’ve served over 9,000 children and their families, provided in-patient hospital care from across western Canada, obviously the Edmonton area, but right up into the high Arctic,” said Andrew Otway, President and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation.

“Our hospital really does pride itself on providing the very best compassionate but evidence-based care and nowhere is this more important, I believe, than in the area of mental health and in particular child mental health.”

Construction on the Family Room started last winter and was funded by the EOCF through its popular Hockey Talks initiative.

“Our hope is that the family room in mental health at the Royal Alexandra Hospital creates a welcoming space for both youth and their families,” said Richard Wong, EOCF Chair.

“Oilers Hockey Talks is part of the effort of the other Canadian NHL teams, recognizing the importance of education, open dialogue on mental health and wellness at the national level.”

Wong explained that the goal of Hockey Talks is to bring the topic of mental health to the forefront in the public realm and to alleviate the stigma and the unfairness in terms of misconceptions.

“It’s just amazing that I can come in here next week and spend time with Aliya and help her through what she’s going through,” said Natalie Mesh.

“She is only 11 years old and she is very vulnerable and she needs all the support and all the help she can get and I’m just glad I can be there for her and help out with the process.”

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