Haldimand testing new mobile mental health and addictions clinic

Haldimand testing new mobile  mental health and addictions clinic
TOWNSEND—Pictured at last week’s announcement are (l-r) Leo Massi, Executive Director, REACH Haldimand-Norfolk; MPP Toby Barrett; Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibollo; CEO of Community Addiction and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) of Haldimand and Norfolk, Nancy Candy-Harding; CAMHS Board Chair, Jean Montgomery; Executive Director, Community Addiction Services of Niagara, Janice Gardner-Spiece; and Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff. —Haldimand Press photo by Mike Renzella.

By Mike Renzella

The Haldimand Press

TOWNSEND—Haldimand-Norfolk, along with the Niagara region, will be one of only four areas in the province to receive a new, government-funded mobile mental health and addictions clinic as part of a pilot project under the Provincial Roadmap to Wellness initiative.

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo was on hand at the Community Addictions and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) headquarters in Townsend last Friday to make the announcement. He said the mobile clinic, based in both Haldimand-Norfolk and the Niagara region, will “help improve access to high-quality mental health and addictions care and address the increased demand for mental health supports during the pandemic.”

TOWNSEND—Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo announced the new mobile clinic at the CAMHS headquarters in Townsend last Thursday.

Tibollo, who spent 10 years working at an addiction treatment bed-based facility, said the idea for the clinic came while driving up north when he saw signs saying 498km and 856km to the next town: “How do you deliver services across the province when you don’t have the ability to build facilities everywhere around the province?”

He recalled feeling confounded by the prospect of creating a “continuum of care” that could reach those living in the space between those towns, and the idea for the mobile unit was born.

Haldimand-Norfolk and Niagara were chosen because the vast geographical landscape provides a perfect test for the effectiveness of the mobile clinic: “We know, and there are a lot of academic journals that support this, that an individual will not go get the help that they need unless it’s close to them. If they do go get it, the likelihood of it succeeding is less and less the further the person has to travel. Given the vastness of this area and the need for supports and services, we figured this was a very good place to start.”

Both local MPP Toby Barrett and Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff were present at the announcement.

“It’s no secret. We have problems,” said Barrett. “We do get phone calls with respect to drug-related crime, and all-too-regular phone calls from business people who start their morning picking up drug paraphernalia out front of their shop.”

Tibollo said that even prior to the pandemic he has been sounding the alarm bell over what he called a “crisis in Ontario” for substance overdoses.

“Our government has been firmly committed from day one to build a system for people to look after their mental health and, when we have addiction issues, to support them through recovery,” said Tibollo. “That’s something we’ve tried to do and are continuing to do.”

Tibollo referred to the pilot project as a ‘hub-and-spoke’ model of providing critical services as close as possible to home, which will “ensure a higher success rate.”

The clinic will be developed and operated by CAMHS CEO Nancy Candy-Harding and her team, in partnership with Community Services of Niagara and Haldimand-Norfolk REACH. It will be staffed by a multi-disciplinarian team of mental health and service providers, as well as trained social workers or nurse practitioners who can deliver a wide range of services.

“The rural landscape offers some challenges, not the least of which is the geographical footprint of distance and limited transportation, making access to services difficult and even impossible in some instances,” said Harding. “We hear firsthand of the difficulties related to access to mental health and addictions care and the desire for clinical and assessment treatment services closer to home.”

One of the key concerns listed by residents in a recent Haldimand Press report on barriers to accessing critical services was indeterminate wait times. Tibollo hopes the mobile clinic will start to address those concerns in a tangible way.

“We believe that this is going to start to build a continuum that will shorten wait times,” he said. “The idea of having a clinic in your backyard and knowing it’s going to be there once a week … the individual is going to know they can get continuous help. That will also form the basis of a referral network and a connection into a larger system.”

Tibollo hopes the pilot project is just the start of something much grander: “I’m very interested in seeing it expand…. We will look to see how successful the project was, and then based on that success make investments we can measure.” 

He concluded, “We need a modern, connected mental health and addiction system to serve Ontarians of all ages. It’s long overdue, it’s needed, and I believe the people of the province deserve it.”

Leave a comment

Send a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *