Downtown crisis care in Sudbury cuts emergency wait times, mental health stigma

An alternative to visiting hospital emergency rooms in times of mental health crises is to go to 127 Cedar Street in Sudbury.

Average wait time is 20 minutes, says mental health worker

Downtown crisis intervention services can mitigate emergency room wait times, mental health stigma (iStock)

Emergency room wait times in Northern Ontario have made headlines in recent months. Now, a Sudbury mom says the problem is even worse for those dealing with a mental health crisis.

Liz Herd's 24-year-old son Josh died by suicide last November.

In an effort to get her son help, Herd spent a lot of time in the hospital emergency room. She says that's when she noticed the wait times are extreme.

"The shortest amount of time we waited with Josh was nine hours," Herd says. "Which is ridiculous when someone just needs a shot of Ativan or some kind of help."

'Come down to Cedar Street'

An alternative to visiting hospital emergency rooms is to go to 127 Cedar Street in Sudbury, according to Robin Cheslock. who is the interim clinical manager of the Crisis Intervention Service at Health Sciences North.

"People who we typically want to see at the emergency department are those people who are not very well and need that immediate medical assistance," Cheslock says.

"Whereas if they're still functioning and they're still capable, we want them to come down to Cedar Street."

The operation includes two mobile crisis units, staff stationed at HSN's emergency department and the main mental health building at 127 Cedar Street. That's where anyone struggling with a mental health crisis can come for help, seven days a week.

Less waiting, less stigma

Crisis intervention services have been in Greater Sudbury for more than a decade, Cheslock says, but the move to be immersed in the community happened in 2012. There were two main reasons for the move.

The first was to mitigate wait times in emergency rooms and get mental health patients the specific help they needed, faster. The second was to dissipate any stigma around mental health services.

"We still have a tendency to see people going to the emergency department, but we're actually seeing lots of increase downtown insofar as our services are concerned," Cheslock says, citing a 250 per cent increase in visits since they moved downtown.

"With the bus station right across the street, and having other businesses and services around us, it helps remove some of the stigma of coming to visit."

Cheslock says the average amount of time a person waits downtown is 20 minutes. After that, they're seen by a crisis clinician who can provide immediate intervention services. Then, the client or their family can get connected with additional mental health resources.