A plan to make face-to-face emergency counsellors available to more Niagara teens paid off early when the pandemic hit. Pathstone Mental Health, which serves Niagara children and youth up to age 18, wanted to make its nine walk-in clinics, supporting youth in crisis, even more effective by adding more hours and allowing video appointments.
A $75,000 grant from the David S. Howes Fund allowed Pathstone to buy laptop computers and docking stations for staff and to extend its hours, said Kim Rossi, Pathstone’s director of philanthropy and public relations, as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to break down barriers to care. The tools are a life-saver, Rossi said, and that was true even before the pandemic hit – especially for youth who live outside urban centres.
“Access to travel was an issue. You can’t hold off on a mental health issue until you can get to a clinic,” Rossi said. With video counselling, “you can have instant face-to-face contact with a counsellor.” In the eight months from January to August 2020, Pathstone took close to 70 calls from children and youth experiencing suicidal thoughts, but Niagara Regional Police report there was not a single death by suicide of children under 18 during that time.
Counsellors for kids in crisis are available at the walk-in clinics, or by phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Referrals or appointments aren’t needed. But the added ability to do video counselling means children who are referred to short-term counselling (six sessions or less) will be able to continue treatment, despite distance, bad weather, transportation problems, or a pandemic lockdown. There’s no loss of care or pressure on waiting lists from missed appointments.
“This grant allowed us to answer a call right now and to fulfill a need during the pandemic,” Rossi said, “and it will make us better for the future.”