Nova Scotia

Halifax mental health walk-in clinic offers immediate help

The North End Community Health Centre in Halifax is hoping to alleviate long waits for mental health treatment by offering a weekly walk-in clinic for those who need immediate care.

North End Community Health Centre in Halifax will mimic service offered in other parts of Canada

The mental health walk-in clinic can see between eight and 10 patients a night, giving people a chance to talk through tough circumstances with a social worker. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

A Halifax health centre is tackling long waits for mental health care by opening a mental health walk-in clinic.

The idea is to help people with immediate issues that can be improved in a single session.

"I do some counselling in my work at the health centre, but it never feels like enough," said Megan MacBride, a social worker at the North End Community Health Centre.

"The demand for service is increasing and it's very difficult to keep up with that, especially for folks who are marginalized, who are living in poverty, who experience homophobia, racism."

MacBride came up with the idea after seeing a similar service while working in Ottawa. When she moved home, she began to advocate for funding to offer it to people in the Halifax area.

Megan MacBride, a social worker, saw how successful mental health walk-in clinics are in other provinces and worked to start one in Nova Scotia. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

She said they'd like to help those who are marginalized, such as people who are homeless or have active addictions.

The program will also be ideal for those with "situational" issues, MacBride said.

"So, a big event has happened and they need immediate service," she said. "They may not need a psychiatrist or psychologist, but they do need someone to talk through what's going on with them in a really immediate way."

MacBride said the service is for people who can't wait for lengthy periods of time.

"Because in six months, it's gonna be dealt with one way or the other, for good or for bad," she said.

Not for emergency cases

The clinic, which is called Pause, is being held in the Mobile Outreach Street Health space at 2131 Gottingen St. Two social workers will see eight to 10 people a night on Tuesday evenings.

The staff say if someone needs emergency care, they should still call the crisis line (902-429-8167 or 1-888-429-8167) or go to an emergency room.

"It's not about being referred someplace, it's not about getting medication," said Marie-France LeBlanc, executive director of the North End Community Health Centre.

"It's about going when the times are tough and then helping you figure out what your next step is."

The walk-in clinic is exclusively for mental health situations. The social workers will help with immediate concerns, but won't tackle referrals or prescriptions. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

At this point, Pause is a pilot project, but there are already plans for expansion.

Social workers will start visiting Spryfield on a weekly basis in the next few months. If the clinic receives more funding, they want to host nights in Dartmouth and Fairview as well.

"One of the things that we've really tried to emphasize is the fact that we want this to be mobile," said MacBride. "We want to meet people where they're already going and they already feel comfortable for mental health service."