More funding needed to keep new crisis centre open all day, everyday

By Justine Fraser

The largest mental health housing provider in the region is opening a new Integrated Crisis Centre (ICC) this summer in partnership with the local Canadian Mental Health Association, (CMHAWW) to reduce the amount of people going to emergency rooms.

People often don’t get the help they need for mental health or substance-use issues when they go to a hospital. Experts are trying to prevent that by creating the ICC.

In an interview with CityNews 570, the CEO of Thresholds Homes and Supports, Eric Philip, said they have seen a large increase in mental health-related issues over the past three years.

“When our clients are experiencing a crisis, there is a good chance they’ll go and sit in a waiting room for 10 to 12 hours. That crisis will either increase or they will see a physician and then immediately be turned back out into the community,” Philip said. “I think the type of care and the level of care needs to change in our community, based on the changing needs of our clients. Mental health has become so much more prevalent in our society that our health care system has to adopt, it has to be able to change and grow and improve with the needs of the community.”

It will be the first mental health and drug addiction-focused crisis centre in the region when it opens. They still need to hire more staff before they can set an opening date, but Philip said they are aiming for late July or early August.

The ICC will be located at Thresholds’ current site in Kitchener at 298 Lawrence Avenue. Currently, they operate five crisis beds out of the back of that location and provide short-term crisis support for individuals in the community. They intend to have the new ICC operate out of the front of the building.

“It will be a very low barrier site, so anyone who is experiencing some sort of mental health crisis will be able to come and get support or referred to a different service in the community,” said Philip.

Police and paramedics will also be able to refer patients to the ICC after it opens instead of taking them to a local hospital for a mental health-related crisis.

“The mental health concerns we’ve seen in the last couple years aren’t going to go away, they are only going to get worse, and so this type of reaction and planning also helps us support long-term mental health care in our community.”

Philip said the ICC is a response to the decline in mental health in the community.

“I think when you look ten years down the road, ideally we have this sort of support in every community, as we shift mental health care away from hospital and into community providers.”

They are opening the ICC as a pilot with internal funding from Thresholds and CMHAWW. For now, it allows them to operate from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. They are looking for more funding to keep the ICC open 24/7.

“Having the opportunity for them to go somewhere and receive that support that’s alternative to hospital, will help them maintain their housing, it will help them remain stabilized. It will help them decrease pressure on the overall community,” Philip said. “Our clients need this service as soon as possible. We see that risk all the time where were sending individuals to hospital and they’re not getting the care they need.”

Philip said they are open to partners for funding to help make the ICC sustainable.

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