“I will recommend this service and turn to it in the future if I ever feel as desperate and despondent again. This service helped me and kept me out of the emergency room.”
- Counselling Connect Client
More than 20,000 individuals in the Ottawa region have received the mental health and addictions support they needed, when they needed it, thanks to a ground-breaking, silo-busting initiative from the Ottawa Health Team - Équipe Santé Ottawa.
For two years, COVID-19 closed many doors across our region, including those to walk-in counselling services.
But for the dedicated allied mental health and addictions service providers in the Ottawa region, the pandemic presented an opening for change.
Organizations like Centretown Community Health Centre, Crossroads Children’s Mental Health Centre, the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region, the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition and the Walk-In Counselling Clinic, came together with client partners to design an innovative solution. Under the guidance of the Ottawa Health Team - Équipe Santé Ottawa, more than twenty community organizations collaborated to develop one website with an online booking feature to seamlessly connect people to brief counselling support.
Counselling Connect – Counseling en connecte now provides easy access to free phone or video counselling in Ottawa and the surrounding area.
“It really has been instrumental in improving access to short-term services,” says one of the providers. “It puts the client in the drivers’ seat, which is great.”
More than one in five Counselling Connect – Counseling en connecte clients say they would not have sought any support without this new, online option.
“I wish this service had existed years ago,” said one client about the confidential assistance. “And I hope it continues past the pandemic. It has the potential to help a lot of people.”
Not only has it provided important care, but it has provided an alternative for people who otherwise would have turned to their medical doctor or a hospital for help.
Without access to Counselling Connect, 27 percent of clients would have gone to their family doctor or a general practitioner for care, while 7 percent would have gone to a hospital emergency room.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the understanding and expert help and kindness,” says a recent client. “I will recommend this service and turn to it in the future if I ever feel as desperate and despondent again. This service helped me and kept me out of the emergency room.”
Counselling Connect – Counseling en connecte has made it easier to seek help in other ways.
Online appointments reduce financial and access barriers that may prevent clients from seeking or obtaining help.
Finding childcare, taking time off work, and getting to in-person appointments are all hurdles that prevent individuals from accessing counselling, especially for clients without leave and benefits provided by an employer.
This new approach has also bolstered collaboration between service providers, with more than 1500 cross-agency referrals.
There are specific counselling streams set up for clients identifying as LGBT2SQ+, African, Caribbean, or Black, or Indigenous. Counselling Connect – Counseling en connecte provides services in Arabic alongside English and French.
Since it began as a response to growing mental health and substance use needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, Counselling Connect – Counseling en connecte has evolved into an essential service for caregivers and communities.
To learn more, go to Counselling Connect: Free Phone or Video Counselling