April 16, 2014

“Here 24/7” improves mental health service

As published in The Erin Advocate

New projects are underway in the region to reduce the number of people who fall through the cracks of the mental health system.

Patients with complex needs will get more opportunities for quality care, with an additional $5.9 million being dedicated over the past year to Addictions and Mental Health Treatment through the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network (WWLHIN). That is more than half of all the new local health care funding.

One initiative launched last week is Coordinated Access, a first in Ontario, also known as “Here 24/7”. Acknowledging that the existing system can be difficult to navigate, the Canadian Mental Health Association for Waterloo, Wellington and Dufferin (CMHAWWD) has created a “no-wrong door” approach for people in need.

With one toll-free phone call at any time to 1-844-437-3247 (HERE247) or by visiting centres including 147 Delhi Street in Guelph, people will connect with crisis intervention or the intake and assessment process, including appointments with any of 12 regional agencies.

There will be a centralized risk screening and waiting list system, instead of several. Clients will have a Coordinator to help set priorities and they won’t have to repeat their story over and over. Agencies will cooperate more, using standardized assessments and holistic planning.

The Here 24/7 team includes about 20 full-time staff, and with new LHIN funding, another 13 people are being hired. Go to www.here247.ca for more details.

Another initiative announced in February was $400,000 for a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) program. It is designed to help those with Borderline Personality Disorder, a serious illness marked by instability in moods, behaviour and relationships.

“Evidence shows that DBT can help people most in need who couldn’t be helped before,” said WWLHIN CEO Bruce Lauckner. “The targeted investment will provide a critical lifeline for people who might otherwise slip through cracks in our health system.”

The DBT approach teaches skills that help participants learn to control their emotions and responses. It can help reduce addictions, self-harm, and suicidal behaviours. By teaching ways to increase patients’ own safety and stability, DBT is better accepted, resulting in a lower attrition rate than other forms of therapy, with fewer days of hospitalization.

“This is a huge addition to the therapeutic toolkit for individuals in our community,” said Fred Wagner, Executive Director of CMHA Waterloo, Wellington, Dufferin. “DBT will allow us to better help people we’ve been unsuccessful in supporting effectively in the past. It gives new hope to residents struggling to manage their condition, and to clinicians striving to support them.”

Other recent local initiatives include enhanced crisis response, helping police and clinicians deliver emergency mental health service more efficiently. There is a special outreach program from the CMHA for the homeless, and a program at the Stonehenge Therapeutic Community in Guelph to improve outcomes for residents with opioid addictions.

Another major development last year was the amalgamation of the Grand River Branch of the CMHA (serving areas to the west), with Trellis Mental Health and Development Services (serving easterly areas including Erin and Orangeville). So it is now called the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington Dufferin, the largest chapter in Canada, with 12 service locations and almost 350 employees.

The organization started construction in December of a three-storey, 22,700 sq/ft headquarters and treatment facility at 80 Waterloo Ave. in downtown Guelph.

The $10.2 million building, to be opened by June 2015, is on the former site of the Salvation Army Citadel, which has been demolished. Services will include individual and group treatment, education sessions, crisis support, adult and seniors services, eating disorder support and psychosis intervention.