Demand for mental health and addiction supports is high in Haliburton County, with more than 55 per cent of participants in a new three-year mobile clinic program run by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) coming from the Highlands.
Jeff Cadence, manager of the program for CMHA Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge, said 60 of 108 clients served regionwide through The Road Ahead pilot since December 2021 have come from the County.
“Haliburton has been, by far, our busiest region so far. That demonstrates there’s a higher prevalence of geographic barriers people are facing in the community… a lot of people accessing our services don’t have the ability to travel long distances for support,” Cadence said.
The clinics, which run out of a custombuilt, 37-foot-long bus, have been operating every other week in Haliburton, Minden, Eagle Lake, Kennisis Lake, West Guilford and Tory Hill. It’s being funded by a $1 million grant from the Ontario government.
Anyone can qualify for service, Cadence said. CMHA conducts an over-the-phone assessment that determines the level of support required. People are then generally matched with services within two weeks. Counselling and therapy are carried out by two mental health clinicians and a mental health nurse on-site.
Once enrolled, people are treated through 10 bi-weekly sessions, though Cadence said some clients have required more long-term support.
Staff have adapted on the fly, he said, offering other supports that he says clients wouldn’t have otherwise been able to access. This includes couples therapy, health services system navigation, and general health care. He noted in the County there had been several cases of people presenting with issues stemming from undiagnosed diabetes. Virtual psychiatry is also offered, though a doctor’s referral is required.
“We also do a lot of harm reduction services for people with addictions. We have safeuse materials available, and we distribute naloxone so if people are using opioids they have protection against poisonings and overdoses,” Cadence said. “We want to be flexible and nimble. The intention of this pilot is to get a really good understanding of the needs of the communities, and to build a model that helps meet those needs and overcome existing barriers to mental health services,” Cadence said.
There are 30 clients actively receiving support in the County, which Cadence said is more than any other region. Eighty per cent of clients served in the Highlands have received counselling services.
The pilot will run until December 2024, though Cadence said demand suggests it should be adopted permanently. He hopes, one day, to have a bus and staff exclusively servicing Haliburton County.
“The situations we’ve seen, if we weren’t here providing these services, these people wouldn’t be getting any help at all. They would be living unwell, and letting their situations worsen. So that is something that’s really heartening, that we can say with confidence that we’re bringing something to our clients that they otherwise would not have access to,” Cadence said.
In addition to this pilot, CMHA served 257 individuals across the County between April 2021 and March 2022 through its Four County Crisis support program. This initiative assists individuals with serious mental illness, according to CMHA spokesperson Caitlin Morris. Cadence said the mobile program works in tandem with CMHA’s other offerings.
He said one way people struggling with their mental health can get some respite is through outdoor activity – something he recommends to all clients.
“Once we’ve addressed some of the mental health concerns, it’s the ‘what next’. We live in a beautiful part of the world, so let’s get out there and engage in it. I’d like us to do a bit more proactive or positive programming in the future, rather than just treating illness, as part of a broader look at mental health,” he said.
For more information, visit cmhahkpr.ca. To access services offered through the pilot, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 705-991- 3551, or 1-888-357-1294.