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Calgary’s Next Economy: Kairos Cognitive Care tackles mental health and support

Leah Kazmerik wants to transform the delivery of mental health care in Calgary.

She’s developing a mental health coaching program that not only tackles some of the root causes but also looks at the network of social support for patients.

“One of the things that can happen is your mental health can start deteriorating to a point that you’re missing the basic components of living,” said Kazmerik.  

She, along with three others, co-founded Kairos Cognitive Care five years ago. Her passion stems from her own experience having been diagnosed with ADHD in 2009. That’s when she began her own journey through the province’s healthcare system.

Kazmerik collected some of the “successful things,” but also spoke with others who were struggling. She’s collated the experiences of more than 20 others to find the common pain points in the system.

Kazmerik’s dad, Mel Dutz is also a part of the Kairos team. He said it’s been difficult watching his daughter struggle through the healthcare system.  But, it’s given her a lived experience that’s invaluable in delivering care.

“I watched her struggle through the health system for decades,” Dutz said.

“When she finally was able to put a program together she said ‘hey, I experienced a lot, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m now finally in a position where I feel I have victory over this.”

Social components combined with mental health treatment

As she said previously, the rest of life can come unraveled for a person dealing with mental health issues.

One of the first things Kairos tackles is stability. Patients get help navigating to find the right supports. They work with social workers that come into the home, office or school to coach the person through specific challenges.

“They’re reminding you what you’re supposed to be doing during that challenge to get through it. But then they’re also watching for things that are indicators of mental illness, or more significant psychological issues,” Kazmerik said.

In order to deliver a plan swiftly, Dutz said they assess patients within a week – preferably the next day – to assess the mental, physical or social support they need.

If patients travel through the acute care side of Alberta’s Health system, it might take some time before a professional assessment. Quite often, Dutz said, Kairos can refer to a psychiatrist, or their team can coach a person through the situation.  

“We have a coach assigned to them when they enter the program on a daily basis. So, what started out as a possible potential crisis, now that person, they feel somebody is an ally with them. It’s somebody who can help reason through stuff they don’t understand.

Kazmerik – the social capitalist

Kazmerik said after having lived the experience of many mental health sufferers and learned of many others’ struggles, she knows the types of services she’d like to deliver.

The Platform Calgary Junction program has provided her a sense of structure for her business. It’s a way to put it all together.

“What they’ve helped me do is at the start of the Junction program, I basically have, here’s all the services I want to offer, and we’ll figure out how to get there,” she said.

The mentors have also provided her insight into the technical aspects of service delivery to make it more efficient for the patient.

That’s a big deal in the health industry where patient records, referrals and treatments can be siloed. Kazmerik said they will be able to securely host all the information and link it to a wide range of mental health and social support services.

“We have no desire to contain them in any kind of silo at all,” she said.

Right now, Kairos is building a network of health professionals. They’ve also struck up partnerships with local post-secondary schools for patient referrals.

Kazmerik said they’ve developed an app that allows for coaches and clients to communicate. They’re also developing a platform to house electronic records for primary care physicians to access. Kazmerik said it will be built with a document-sharing system for patients and their professional care. That’s expected to be out in the next 18 months.

A big barrier to overcome in the medical community is acceptance of a new way of doing things. That’s a challenge they’re working on, including with the provincial health authorities.

“We’re hoping that we can get the partnerships together with the province, and we can take this support system province-wide,” she said.