July 23, 2014

Cutting wait times for mental health services

As published in The Erin Advocate

The flood of calls to a new mental health helpline has prompted an increase in funding from the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), part of a $1.23 million investment in crisis response, referrals, addiction treatment and suicide prevention.

The Waterloo Wellington LHIN board has approved an additional $950,000 for the “Here 24/7” service, operated by the regional branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). It provides a live-answer phone line, as part of a new system providing a single point of access for anyone who needs information, referral, assessment and treatment.

“Calls to Here 24/7 have exceeded expectations by more than 75%,” said a LHIN announcement after the June 26 board meeting. “While more than 7,800 residents have been helped since April, there are still others who hung-up before receiving help. The additional funding will reduce the wait time for callers, reduce the number of callers who hang-up before being helped, and reduce wait times for residents needing a formal assessment for addiction and mental health needs.”

The helpline number is 1-844-437-3247. Residents can go to www.here247.ca or show up in person at 147 Delhi St. in Guelph or 234 St. Patrick St. E. in Fergus.

The LHIN board, which oversees the allocation of Ministry of Health funding for local needs, has also approved an additional $200,000 for the CMHA’s Youth and Young Adult Skills for Safer Living Program.

“This peer-led group program is a skills-based intervention that addresses the needs of individuals that engage in suicidal behavior,” said the announcement, noting that 47% of youth ages 12-24 have suicide-related concerns at some point, and that among youth, suicide remains the 2nd leading cause of death.

“Transitional age youth (ages 16-24) are a vulnerable population as their developmental needs may not be adequately met by existing programs that are designed for either children or adults.”

In addition, CMHA will receive $75,000 to produce 60,000 suicide prevention information packages for local distribution, and to host more group “postvention” sessions.

Postvention is the effort to improve the quality of life and avoid further suicides among those grieving a suicide loss.