When it comes to addressing a mental-health issue, timeliness can be crucial.
A new collaboration announced March 4 promises to provide that pivotal element in cases where the person experiencing a mental-health issue is not an adult.
Janet Irvine (executive director of the Northumberland Community Counselling Centre), Jennifer Cox (integrated community mental health director of the Northumberland Hills Hospital Community Mental Health Centre) and Carol Beauchamp (executive director for Rebound Child and Youth Services) each represented their agencies in announcing the initiative at Cobourg's Venture13 centre.
Cox described an initiative begun more than a year ago between her agency and the Northumberland Community Counselling Centre, collaborating on a walk-in counselling clinic for adults. They saw wait times for services decrease and access to treatment increase as the numbers rose – 96 walk-in visits last April vs. 173 in November. There was also a significant uptick in the numbers of these visitors utilizing the option of return visits.
Rebound reached out to explore a youth-oriented collaboration and, on March 19, the new youth walk-in clinic will be open to young people aged seven to 16 at the NHH Community Mental Health office (Suite 200 at 1011 Elgin St. W., Cobourg, right on the municipal bus line) two days a week – Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
No referrals, no appointments, no fuss – just walk in any time during regular hours (even over the lunch hour) and you will be seen on a first-come-first-served basis.
The young people will meet with a community mental-health staffer for an initial assessment and, once confirmed, clients get a same-day individual counselling with someone from the appropriate partner agency.
There is no limit to the number of visits that can be made under this collaboration.
Cox said that of the crisis visits made through her agency in the 2017-2018 year, almost 48% were youth related.
As for Rebound, Beauchamp said, the number of their clients served in relation to a mental-health issue went from the 465 in 2013-2014 to the 870 they are now serving.
Beauchamp reminded everyone in attendance that one in five people experience a mental-health problem or illness on any given day. In 70% of those cases, that person would say the symptoms started in childhood.
“Obviously, the earlier we can intervene and provide support, the better, she stated.
“We know our health-care system is complicated and, for youth, it's even more so. We want to try to make that as simple as possible with the idea of a people-centric options, a one-door entry so people uncomfortable with making an appointment in advance can walk through the door and get some responsive and immediate assistance.”
“The Northumberland Community Counselling Centre was thrilled to join the NHH Mental Health team to be part of the original planning for a collaborative walk-in service for adults,” Irvine said.
“We are equally excited to be part of the expansion of those services. It's our pleasure to welcome Rebound to the team responding to the needs in our community.
“Our adult walk-in service has found another benefit with this model relevant for youth and children and families – it has reduced the violence associated with mental illness. We know from experience many youth and families who may be reluctant to approach their doctors with mental-health issues will approach a service that does not require referrals.
“They are comfortable doing that, and timeliness is everything. The earlier we offer assistance, the more unlikely the situation will escalate.”
Emcee Jennifer Gillard said a number of local youth affiliated with Rebound have also played a supportive role. They have created a group called Cobourg Mental Health. Zak Rich of St. Mary Secondary School, Zane Bergeron of Cobourg Collegiate Institute and a number of St. Mary students who are part of their school's Jack Chapter (a mental-health group) will be promoting this new community resource to their peers and on social media.
“The support from local youth and community partners like the local police services, area schools, guidance teachers, social agencies and our local media, we will be working to promote this over the coming months and raise the awareness so folks can get help at an early stage if needed,” Gillard said.
While young people visiting the centre will not require parent or guardian consent if they're over the age of 12, those younger than 12 should be accompanied by a parent. And while counselling conversation is confidential, counsellors have a duty to report disclosed or suspected abuse and any risk of a youth harming himself or herself (or others).
Should young people require help anytime outside of the walk-in clinic hours, organizers offered other options – the Four County Crisis centre (1-866-995-9933), Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868), Good 2 Talk (a post-secondary student helpline that can be reached at 1-866-925-5454) and the Be Safe app (https://besafeapp.ca/).