Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario Initiative


According to the evidence, a disconnect exists between the needs of youth in Ontario and their access to mental health and addiction services. Research indicates that by age 16, 35 per cent of people have experienced a mental disorder1 and 70 per cent of adult mental illness begins during adolescence or earlier2. Less than one third of youth will receive targeted services3, and there was a 32 per cent increase in emergency room visits for youth mental health and addictions from 2006 to 20114. The data also show us that death by suicide occurs more frequently than death due to cancer for youth between the ages of 15 and 245. The system needs to change to better meet the needs of youth. 

Youth wellness hubs initiative 

In February 2017, the Ontario government announced funding for integrated service hubs across the province to address gaps in the youth service system. Ten hubs were established to serve as fully integrated “one-stop-shops” for youth aged 12–25, to address their needs related to mental health, substance use, primary care, education, employment, training, housing and other community and social services. These hubs also include peer services, outreach, and system navigation services. The services emphasize quality and are timely, integrated and co-located.

Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario (YWHO) builds on similar initiatives already underway in Canada, such as ACCESS Open Minds (Pan-Canadian) and Foundry (British Columbia), as well as previous international initiatives in Ireland (Jigsaw) and Australia (Headspace).

There are also four existing research-funded hubs in Scarborough, Toronto East, Central Toronto (YouthCan IMPACT), Chatham-Kent (ACCESS Open Minds) and many other communities across the province that are beginning to deliver hub-like services.

The YWHO initiative will serve as a critical step toward improving Ontario’s mental health and addiction services for youth and young adults by:

  • providing rapid access to easily identifiable mental health and substance use services with walk-in, low-barrier services and clear service pathways
  • providing evidence-based interventions matched to individuals’ level of need, and supported transitions to specialized care services when the severity of need is evident
  • integrating mental health, substance use, primary care, vocational, housing and other support services into a one-stop-shop model of care offered in a youth-friendly space
  • reducing transitions between services through co-location and shared services in a single place
  • establishing common evaluation across sites
  • co-creating services with youth & families.

Read more about the initiative below or download the PDF of the memo.


YWHO is committed to getting youth the right services at the right time by the right provider in the right place.

YWHO serves youth aged 12–25 with the following services:

  • mental health
  • substance use
  • primary care
  • education, employment and training
  • housing and other community and social services
  • peer support and care navigation
  • sexual health
  • cultural programming
  • drop-in social and recreational activities.

YWHO core values:

  • Youth-centred & family-supportive services
  • Meaningful engagement and co-creation
  • Increasing visibility and addressing stigma
  • Collaboration
  • Evaluation & quality

YWHO leadership & partners

With Dr. Joanna Henderson from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) as its project lead, YWHO is comprised of expertise from the Provincial System Support Program at CAMH and the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health of CHEO. YWHO reflects a partnership between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, with support from the Graham Boeckh Foundation.

The YWHO team works closely with stakeholders from across the province, including youth and their families, to inform every aspect of the initiative at the provincial and hub-specific level. This includes engaging youth from specific equity-seeking groups, such as First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, LGBTQ+, Francophone, immigrant, refugee, ethno-cultural and racialized youth, and youth with disabilities.

For more information, please contact info [at] youthhubs [dot] ca.


  1. Costello et al., 2003
  2. Kesseler et al., 2007
  3. Merikangas et al., 2011
  4. ICES ScoreCard, 2016
  5. Statistics Canada, 2012 


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