Kitchener-Waterloo·Special Report

Wait for mental health services too long in Waterloo, Wellington

Wait times for mental health services in Waterloo Region and Wellington County could be significantly shorter in the new year, when local organizations begin to operate according to a new service model.

New service model could reduce wait times, getting help to people when they need it

Helen Fishburn, executive director of the local CMHA, says the new project will have "massive implications" in terms of how people receive mental health support. (Amanda Grant/CBC)

Wait times for mental health services in Waterloo Region and Wellington County could be significantly shorter in the new year, when local organizations begin to operate according to a new service model.

The model is being designed by the the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington Dufferin and other local service providers, and is expected to be up and running sometime between February and April 2016.

"This is a massive project," said Helen Fishburn, executive director of the local CMHA. "It's going to have a massive implication in terms of how people receive support when they [need it]."

Adults who are in a mental health crisis or who have concerns about their mental health are encouraged to call Here 24/7, where support workers can connect them with the services they may need in the community. 

Unfortunately, Fishburn said, a person may have to wait years before they are actually able to receive those services.

As of Sept. 23, 2015, she said there were 449 people waiting for housing with mental health supports, 410 people waiting for a support coordinator, close to 300 people waiting for a visit with a community-based psychiatrist, 340 people waiting for a visit with a CMHA psychiatrist and almost 300 people waiting for counselling.

New service model to improve wait times, well-being

According to Fishburn, the long waits are frustrating for people who need help and can undermine their mental well-being.

She said the waiting lists are also a source of stress for support workers.

"I was having a conversation with our Here 24/7 workers about this at our team meeting, about how difficult it is for them to give the message to this individual that, you know, you're looking at several years before there's a vacancy in this program. It's devastating."

Since September, local service providers have been designing a new model of service delivery, which Fishburn said will better respond to the needs in the community. 

She said the local CMHA plans to run a few pilot projects between now and December, with the goal of having the new model in place by early 2016.

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