Eastern Health's new walk-in mental health service aimed at cutting wait times

A new walk-in service for mental health and addictions issues should help cut overall wait times, says Eastern Health.

Kim Grant, director of mental health and addictions services for Eastern Health, says DoorWays, launched this past week in Harbour Grace, is aimed at providing an immediate response to people who need one.

Wait lists for mental health services have gotten longer over the last several years, Grant told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show, due to an increase in demand.

"It caused us to really step back and look at, how can we do things differently so that people can have more timely access to services?" she said.

The clinics for people aged 12 and up will be launched in eight spots around the health authority's region and will use a team of mental health clinicians — psychologists, addiction counsellors, social workers and nurses — who will provide an hour of single-session therapy to people who need it.

Complements existing mental-health services

"It's not unlike a walk-in clinic at your physician's office," she said, adding that people using the service will walk away with a plan to address an immediate need.

The new service is meant to complement existing mental-health services, said Grant.

"So for those who may need more than just that one session, there will be an opportunity to refer them on to other services," she said.

"But what research is showing is that about 40 to 50 per cent of people who present to these kinds of clinics, really, that's all that they need, and they don't go on to look for other services."

Eastern Health has been offering a version of this service for about a year on the southern shore, with "very favourable results," said Grant.

20% to 30% of people are no-shows for appointments

"It's helped us as well to reduce our no-show rate, because that's another factor that really contributes to some of our wait lists," she said.

"When you have 20 to 30 per cent of people not showing for appointments, that increases the wait for others who are trying to get into the services. But by offering the walk-in service, there is no wait, because people are coming when they feel they need it."

In addition to Harbour Grace, clinics for people 12 years and older will be held in Whitbourne and St. John's (beginning March 13); Clarenville and Marystown (March 14), Ferryland (March 15); and Holyrood and Witless Bay (March 16). Schedule and locations can be found at easternhealth.ca.

Along with DoorWays, Eastern Health is reorganizing adult mental health and addictions counselling services on the northeast Avalon into four inter-disciplinary teams, following a method of matching people to the most appropriate care for their needs. 

Further, the Recovery Centre in St. John's has recently started to offer medication to help people with withdrawal symptoms or health complications whereas it had previously operated as a detox centre without medication or medical support.