../Morning Post
Posted November 9, 2009
Social Networking - Care

Linking Lutherwood youth to first-of-its-kind virtual support

Introducing ‘Upopolis’, Canada’s first secure online community keeping kids in hospitals and specialized care connected to their world

Waterloo – Lutherwood, TELUS and Kids’ Health Links Foundation (KHLF) yesterday announced the launch of Upopolis, the first secure online social network for children in specialized and hospital care, at Lutherwood.

Christina Papaevangelou, Director & Co-Founder of Kids’ Health Links Foundation, helps
Lutherwood youth Jamie, 16, access the Upopolis network.

Lutherwood is Canada’s first health and social service organization to provide Upopolis to help youth struggling with mental health issues in a residential setting stay connected to family and friends in a safe way. Youth at the facility will each get a laptop and access to the Upopolis portal, providing them a social networking system they can use to keep in touch with people important to them, play games, and research health information without the dangers open access to the Internet creates for young patients that has prompted most hospitals to restrict access.

“Youth in our residential programs are struggling with many mental health challenges and the last thing they need is to feel isolated,” said John Colangeli, CEO, Lutherwood, “Upopolis will not only enable our youth to remain connected with their community to ensure a more successful transition back into the community, it will provide access to accurate and safe information about their mental health diagnosis to help them understand their challenges and develop strategies to cope.”

“Technology has the power to make a difference in lives of youth in treatment at Lutherwood in a virtual space that speaks to the social networks they are accustomed to using,” said Nick Di Giovanni, vice-president Public Sector, TELUS Business Solutions. “Launching Upopolis at Lutherwood as the first health and service organization to deploy the network truly demonstrates the adaptability and evolution of our technology to meet the needs of this community of youth.”

Through a unique partnership with KHLF, TELUS provides the technology to develop and build Upopolis. TELUS continues to provide site expansion, ongoing access to Upopolis, managed Web hosting, and application support and maintenance services.

KHLF and TELUS launched the first Upopolis program in 2007 at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton and since then it is expanding to other hospitals across Canada, including B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver and IWK Health Centre in Halifax and CHEO in Ottawa. By adapting the TELUS technology, the Upopolis team has adapted the system to meet the specific needs of each hospital, whether adding French language capabilities or information specific to mental health.

“Launching Upopolis for the first time at Lutherwood demonstrates the value of this network. There are kids in treatment outside of hospitals that are feeling isolate from their worlds and Upopolis helps them connect to that outside support system,” said Basile Papaevangelou, chairman and founder of KHLF. “With the help of our partners, hospitals and treatment facilities across the country we will expand the program to extend the reach for kids in care from coast to coast.”

The online support network was inspired by the hospital experiences of two teenaged friends, Christina Papaevangelou and Katy McDonald. In February 2002, Christina was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at McMaster Children's Hospital with a life-threatening illness. Shortly after, Katy was diagnosed with cancer and had to be hospitalized for a long period of time, feeling disconnected from friends, family and keeping up with schoolwork. Sadly, Katy lost her battle with cancer. However, their friendship and common experiences inspired Christina to explore ways to help kids in care stay connected.

Lutherwood is a not-for-profit organization that provides children’s mental health, employment and housing programs as well as seniors’ retirement services. It annually strengthens more than 16,000 lives in Waterloo Region and Wellington County. For more information, please visit www.lutherwood.ca.

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