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Psychiatric Emergency

The Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Emergency (CAPE) unit provides short-stay crisis care for children and youth (through age 16) from British Columbia (BC) and the Yukon Territories, who are experiencing acute mental health challenges.
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Who we treat

Access to the CAPE unit is through emergency/hospital services where a psychiatric assessment has been completed in which immediate hospitalization is required. 

Services we offer

  • Consultation
    To physicians in the community and emergency departments in BC.
  • Assessment
    Emergency psychiatric assessments and stabilization.
  • Diagnosis
    Initial and emergency diagnostic tests and procedures.
  • Treatment
    Treatment planning for crisis stabilization and accessing community resources.
  • Education / family support
    Psycho-education and crisis family support.
  • Community Support
    Coordination with community supports for urgent care.

The interdisciplinary team is comprised of registered nurses, psychiatric nurses, nurse practitioner, youth and family counsellors, child psychiatrists, and social workers. Discharge meetings involve CAPE staff, parents / caregivers or MCFD Guardian, the patient (depending on age), and community care providers wherever possible.

CAPE is launching a research program to help understand the scope, diagnoses, descriptions, and interventions of emergency child and adolescent psychiatry. Research is conducted only with the expressed consent of children and their parents / caregivers. Aggregated anonymous patient information is collected for quality assurance purposes.

Learn more about our research at Child & Family Research Institute.


Student placements and training opportunities for psychiatric training are provided to students at all levels


During treatment

CAPE is an emergency assessment and stabilization unit. A holistic bio-psycho-social approach is applied at all stages of the child’s care.

For diagnostic assessment, the following MAY occur:

  • daily psychiatric interviews
  • family meetings
  • gathering of information from communities, schools, and families
  • nursing care and observation
  • laboratory testing *
  • standardized questionnaires *
  • medical imaging *
  • pediatric medical investigations and consultations *
  • consultations to other specialists if necessary (e.g. neurology, endocrinology)

For emergency stabilization, CAPE provides a low-stimulus, closely monitored environment to try and reduce the child’s distress. CAPE staff provide active, compassionate support and psychological education. An emphasis on identifying the child’s strengths and needs allows the staff to work on problem-solving.

For emergency stabilization, medications or high-acuity monitoring may be required on the CAPE unit. Guardians will be notified immediately if this is necessary.

After emergency stabilization, the priority becomes examining and adjusting community treatments, addressing family needs and coordinating the necessary community medical follow-up. 

Discharge planning is an ongoing, continuous function of the CAPE unit, as stays are typically only up to 5 days.

Length of stay

Variable, but typically between 1 to 5 days.


The CAPE unit accepts patients by direct physician-to-physician referral only. 

If a child is in crisis, please access your closest local emergency department by presenting directly to hospital or calling 9-1-1. Please see How to Find Mental Health & Substance Use Help in BC for a list of crisis services.

After treatment

Discharge planning begins at admission. Community resources are identified, referrals made, and invitations extended for community workers to attend discharge meetings. Children who cannot be safely discharged and who require further assessment and stabilization are referred to a longer-stay inpatient unit. 

Discharge meetings involve CAPE staff, parents / caregivers or MCFD Guardian, the patient (depending on age), and community care providers wherever possible. Admission histories and discharge summaries are forwarded to family physicians, referring psychiatrists, community mental health teams, and other community care providers.



Enter the hospital site through Gate 3 (Heather Street and 29th Avenue entrance). Proceed straight ahead and turn left at the stop sign. CAPE can be accessed from Entrance #87 in the Mental Health Building. Upon entering the building, signs will direct you towards the unit. CAPE is a secure unit; please use the buzzer to be let into the unit.

Visiting hours

2-4pm and 6-8pm daily.

Visiting is restricted to immediate family members, and the hours are set, but CAPE will accommodate special circumstances.

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