Jordie Dywer - Editorial

Jordie Dywer - Editorial

Just An Observation: Bashaw wants to make rural mental health service better

Newly developed delivery model with a client-centred focus created through a collaboration

A number of service agencies and organizations have come up with a wonderful idea, the only bug is will it get off the ground?

Establishing a Rural Community Services Centre was brought forward last month as a way to better deal with what is quickly becoming a crisis in the region — the lack of readily available and responsive mental health services.

As a small rural area that lies at least a 30 minute drive from accessible services — and usually a much greater distance with lengthy wait times for higher level professionals — the help that is so desperately needed for these people tends to be frustratingly limited.

The services that are right here are the most basic; that includes an initial meeting and even that may only occur several days later, since mental health workers pay visits to town maybe once or twice a week.

That leaves the best interests of these individuals in the hands of people and professionals that are not totally equipped to handle the workload.

The RCMP are constantly dealing with individuals, on multiple occasions in most cases. Officers can easily deal with the most emergent cases, via a trip to an area hospital, but mostly they can do nothing except ask if the person wants to get some assistance.

Meanwhile at school, there are immediate resources often at hand, but that’s only good enough for that moment. Unfortunately, unless things can wait days or if a parent can afford to a day off to drive for specialist appointments in a city, then the issue doesn’t get really resolved in a timely manner, if at all.

And along with the time delays, the inconsistent referral system currently used has as many holes as swiss cheese and that sees individuals getting lost in the system with multiple appointments, conflicting information and the potential of never getting the real help they need.

Which is why this locally developed — rural specific — delivery model is so important for government to get behind and that it succeed.

As Bashaw’s Adult Learning manager Jackie Northey noted, “We are approaching this with the attitude of why wait for someone else to come up with a rural delivery model, but let us figure out how we can make it work, then tell them what we need to get it done.”

The one-stop shop model is slated to work like this — have a central place for any agency to connect with or refer people to and have clients visit; meet with clients to figure just what their specific needs are; come up with any immediate referrals or resources clients should access; make suitable arrangements to access more specialized services within a shorter time frame; plus, ensure there is continual followup with clients in case circumstances change.

Services won’t be added, it’s simply a client-focused configuration as opposed to the client having to visit each different agency to get the service they need. It will also cut down on time and money spent on administration as the client’s information is only taken once.

That being said, now the hard part begins.

An open public meeting is slated for the Bashaw Community Centre on May 17 with provincial and federal politicians being invited with a focus on discussing the issues facing mental health delivery in rural Alberta.

The hope is the lobbying effort will achieve support for this innovative rural model and possibly funding to assist in bringing the project to fruition.

If the project receives the necessary support, it could serve as a practical solution for other rural areas in the province. It would save money, better client’s lives, cut duplication, improve student outcomes and allow police to focus more on their actual job.

The benefits are endless, so here’s hoping someone can see it through the smoke and mirrors of political posturing.

But that is…just an observation.