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Apps on the way to reduce wait times for NWT mental health services


The Northwest Territories government is working with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) on a project that will help reduce wait times for mental health services.

The two-year project will include the “use of both existing traditional supports and internet and digital technologies like phone apps” to allow NWT residents to access a variety of services, no matter where they are.

The project uses the Stepped Care 2.0 (SC2.0) model developed by Dr. Peter Cornish. After it was implemented in Newfoundland and Labrador, the model was found to reduce wait times for mental health services by 68 per cent.

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“It’s a model for service delivery that takes that stepped approach of matching people with the right level of service, but also using e-based or virtual options for people to choose from,” explained Sara Chorostkowski, with the NWT Department of Health and Social Services.

“It’s really about being flexible and adapting and offering what works for the person at the time.”

The first part of the project saw the launch of the Strongest Families program in January. Chorostkowski said e-mental health apps are now on their way.

“We’re looking at apps that could be purely peer-support. So people networking with each other without any type of professional meeting needing to be involved,” she said.

Chorostkowski said among the apps they’re looking at are one aimed at addiction recovery for people who have completed addictions treatment, and self-help for anxiety.

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Chorostkowski stressed that no services will be removed from the territory’s current mental health care system, instead there will be more ways to access supports.

“As a user of the service, you’re going to be able to get help much more quickly and when you do get help, there’s going to be more options for you to choose from in terms of how you would like to deal with the concerns that you’re bringing forth,” she said.

“This is really about taking a person-centered approach to meeting with people, finding out what their needs are, and then really giving them options to choose from that are best suited to what their need is at the time, and if this changes, you can step it up.”

In August 2019, the territorial government released its Mental Wellness and Addictions Recovery Action Plan. One of its objectives was to “increase supports and transform the culture of practice within the mental wellness and addictions recovery system” to reflect a seamless care pathway (SCP) model.

In a press release, the federal mental health commission said the SC2.0 model is a “tangible” way for the territory to achieve that.

“The SCP and SC2.0 approaches ensure individuals and families have access to the right level of care quickly and receive timely and solution focused support based on their present needs,” the commission stated.

Diane Thom, the NWT’s minister of Health and Social Services, said the project will give residents more options, on top of on-the-land, peer-to-peer, and face-to-face counselling, as well as facility-based treatment.

“By providing residents with flexible, same day care in combination with e-mental health apps and other supports, we will be able to reduce wait times and either step up or step down intensity of services based on the needs of individuals and families,” Thom said in a press release.

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