OTTAWA -- CHEO has opened a new drive-up mental health vitals clinic for kids and teens accessing mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drive-up clinic at CHEO's Montreal Road location will supplement CHEO's virtual mental health appointments. Approximately 94 per cent of CHEO's outpatient mental health visits are currently being done virtually.

"Virtual care can't do everything," said Dr. Marjorie Robb, CHEO's acting Chief of Psychiatry. The new drive-up mental health vitals clinic will allow doctors to conduct regular vital-sign check-ups that are an essential part of caring for youth with mental health needs.

During an interview with CTV News at Six anchor Patricia Boal, Dr. Robb said many of the patients at CHEO's clinic are on medications and have physical health problems that need to be monitored.

"It has been a problem because they've not been able to come to our clinic, and for many of them their family doctors are doing their work virtually, so they're not going to their family doctor's office in-person either," said Dr. Robb.

"However, many of them are on medications where they really, for safety, need to have some very basic vital signs monitored. Their height and weight to monitor for side-effects, their blood pressure and heart rates to monitor for side-effects."

The check-ups will assess height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure, and allow staff to see how a child or youth is adjusting to a new medication, order bloodwork if necessary and detect potential problems early.

Before the pandemic, the vital-sign check-ups would have been conducted during a full, in-person visit.

Dr. Robb tells CTV News at Six CHEO is seeing a significant backlog in mental health care during the pandemic.

"There was a little decrease at the beginning of the pandemic when everybody was afraid to go to the hospital and afraid to go to their doctor," said Dr. Robb.

"But, as we know anxiety is kind of mounting everywhere and we're seeing an awfully lot of young people presenting to our emergency department. Some certainly requiring admission and we're seeing a lot of people referred to our outpatient department."

Dr. Robb says the new CHEO drive-up mental health vitals clinic is not designed to accept new patients. The clinic is by appointment only, for children referred by the CHEO mental health team.