Fifteen primary health care clinics across Newfoundland and Labrador will take part in a Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) e-mental health demonstration project to reduce wait times and overcome geographic barriers to care. This project will also highlight best practices to follow and pitfalls to avoid when integrating e-mental interventions into the public system, filling an important knowledge gap.
e-Mental health uses the Internet and related technologies like phone apps. It allows people to receive mental health care when and where they need it most, regardless of how close they live to their care provider. In addition to bringing services to people in remote and rural areas, e-mental health can help reduce wait lists for urban dwellers.
The MHCC will oversee the scale up and evaluation of the Stepped Care 2.0 © model for the general population of rural and urban Newfoundland and Labrador. This model was originally developed for students at Memorial University by Dr. Peter Cornish, the Director of Student Wellness and Counselling Centre at Memorial University, contracted as the lead researcher on this MHCC project. Combining face-to-face, same day care with 24-7 access to e-mental health tools is central to Stepped Care 2.0 © and has allowed the university’s mental health services to help 15 per cent more students and eliminate wait lists.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is partnering with the MHCC on the e-mental health demonstration project as part of a broader initiative to transform mental health and addictions care as laid out in Towards Recovery: The Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador. “We’re delighted to support the scale-up of this innovative, homegrown e-mental health initiative that not only has the potential to improve mental health access across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but also across Canada,” said the Honourable John Haggie, Minister of Health and Community Services.
Almost 90 per cent of Canadians are connected to the Internet, yet e-mental health remains underdeveloped in Canada. “The Commission’s early work identified the potential of e-mental health to reach the 1.6 million Canadians who say their mental health needs aren’t being met,” says Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the MHCC. “This project is a concrete step towards expanding e-mental health in Canada.”
The MHCC and Dr. Cornish will work closely with Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health and Community Services and its health authorities to implement and evaluate the Stepped Care 2.0 © model and the e-mental health interventions it will integrate. Stepped care is a way to organize the delivery of health care so that clients receive the least intensive treatment with the greatest likelihood of improvement. Clients are continually monitored and treatment intensity can be stepped up or down depending on the level of client distress or need.
“Stepped Care 2.0 © allows us to treat people with mild and moderate needs earlier, before their needs escalate, substantially reducing or eliminating wait lists and freeing up resources for those who require them most,” explains Dr. Cornish. Research shows that 45-50 per cent of people who receive walk-in services report that one session is enough to address their needs.
Implementation of the demonstration project is underway. The final report, to be distributed nationally, will inform decision-makers about the effectiveness and feasibility of using e-mental health to improve access to services as well as provide outcomes data and identify the elements necessary to successfully scale up the use and integration of e-mental health in the public system.
e-Mental Health Demonstration Project Backgrounder
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