Mental health service launches


Photo by Kha Vo
Photo by Kha Vo

Locals who may have been previously lost in the system of trying to get help for mental health issues, addiction or crises have a new resource at their service.

Here 24/7 is now the central service residents of Waterloo Region, Wellington County and Dufferin County can access in order to connect with services in the area.

Andy Best, communications specialist for the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin, explained that the goal of the service is to make it “as easy as possible for people to reach out and access the services that they need.”

“Whether or not they know what they need — that actually doesn’t matter,” he continued. “Their only job is to reach out to us.”

The service launched on April 1 and is the first of its kind in Ontario and possibly the country, according to Best.

CMHA Waterloo-Wellington-Dufferin is the primary partner, but the service is linked with 11 other services in addiction, mental health and crisis sectors in the area.

“It took a year and half to design and build this new service. The reason why it came about was because there was a recognition that it was very challenging for people to access the right programs.”

Here 24/7 has one set of waiting lists for all programs, for example, whereas in the past people who needed help could have been on several waiting lists that were never coordinated.

According to Best, there are currently 30 service coordinators on staff.

While people can call in and use the service simply as a directory to find out what services are available to them, Best said it is also much more than that.

“They actually serve as the individual guide — they stick with them throughout their journey, they book their appointments for them, they follow up and make sure they’re getting where they need to go,” he said, referring to the ways in which service coordinators assist patrons.

The vast majority of their admissions are by phone, but there is also availability for people to visit their locations in Guelph, Cambridge, Kitchener and Fergus. They are working to bring a fifth location to Waterloo.

Best said that when the service was first launched, they were overwhelmed with demand. Leading up to their launch they added up the interactions their service partners were having per day.

“We were expecting about 80 calls per day when we launched,” he said. “We have consistently, since April, received around 400 calls a day.”

Best says this is proof that there was a demand in the communities.

People aged 26 to 35 use the service the most, with people over the age of 66 using it the least. In addition, where gender is known, females use the service more than males.

Recently, they received $950,000 in funding from the Local Health Integration Network Waterloo-Wellington, which they will receive each year.

This year they are putting it toward hiring 10 more staff.

Best said the staff they hire are “highly trained individuals” because they need to be able to handle a range of calls.

10 per cent of admissions they receive are high risk of harm, very high risk or involve current actions that could cause endangerment.

17 per cent of admissions are moderate risk. 7

3 per cent are low risk or people asking for referrals or asking for advice or information.

In higher risk situations, they have a mobile crisis team who visit individuals to diffuse dangerous situations.

As they continue to try to get on top of the demand in the area, Best said they want to continue to bring awareness to the issues of mental health, addiction and crisis that are present in the communities.

“We want to help reduce the stigma around reaching out for support around these kinds of issues,” he continued.

“We want to continue increasing awareness of Here 24/7 as the one place to call to access mental health, addictions and crisis services in our region.”

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