SAINT JOHN (GNB) – A new service that provides people with rapid access to mental health services has cut the provincial wait list by 46 per cent.

“This new service fulfills our government’s commitment to provide same-day access to counselling support on a walk-in basis,” said Health Minister Dorothy Shephard. She commented while marking the one-year anniversary of the province’s Inter-Departmental Addiction and Mental Health Action Plan.

“In the year since the action plan was released, the health system has worked hard to implement best practices in addiction and mental health services,” she said. “We have improved access to services and are gradually adapting to a model of care that matches clients with the level of service they require. This stepped care model will reduce wait lists and make sure New Brunswickers get access to the right care for their needs.”

One-at-a-time therapy, also known as single session therapy, is now offered at all community addictions and mental health clinics. The services are offered to walk-in clients or by appointment, either virtually or in person for people 16 and older. In the appointment, which may last an hour, a specific, client-focused, strength-based approach is used to deal with the issue the individual wants to address.

Shephard said the new service is not designed for emergencies or for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis. She said community mental health clinics continue to offer more intensive services for those who need them.

Since the province began implementing one-at-a-time therapy last July, some community mental health clinics have eliminated their wait lists. In larger communities, the wait list for services has been reduced considerably. In Saint John, the list has been reduced by 72 per cent. Client satisfaction has been positive, with 95 per cent reporting that they are satisfied with the services they have received.

Other progress since the February 2021 release of the five-year action plan includes:

·         Ongoing work to hire more addiction and mental health professionals to fill gaps in staffing.

·         The development of tools in preparation for a pilot project to help prevent substance use among young people.

·         The opening of an overdose prevention site in Moncton.

·         A new research partnership has begun and plans to study the implementation of a stepped care model in the province. Funded by Canadian Institutes for Health Research and supported by the research departments in the regional health authorities, Memorial University researchers will be tracking and monitoring client and clinician experiences with stepped care.

The initiatives in the Inter-Departmental Addiction and Mental Health Action Plan align with the province’s new health plan, Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action. The plan outlines a path forward, intended to stabilize and rebuild the health-care system to be more citizen-focused, accessible, accountable, inclusive and service-oriented.