Harnessing data to drive quality improvement strategies
Counselling Connect’s journey of building capacity for data-informed service planning.
Counselling Connect was launched out of necessity at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ottawa-based organizations providing counselling services realized that an online platform was urgently needed to continue providing support for children, youth, adults and families with immediate mental health and substance use concerns. Today, the Counselling Connect initiative comprises over 30 partners and continues to provide rapid access to free, brief counselling supports and support groups. Clients can book an appointment within minutes through the accessible online platform.
Counselling is available to individuals of all ages in multiple languages and is delivered with a strong equity focus, with counselling available specifically for African, Caribbean and Black, Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQ+ clients. The platform has proven to be an effective model for delivering brief supports that can prevent the need for more intensive clinical services for a large majority of clients, while providing referrals for individuals requiring longer ongoing supports for a mental health or substance use issue.
Since the spring of 2022, Counselling Connect’s Evaluation Working Group has been collaborating on developing an updated evaluation strategy for the initiative. This resulting work has led to the creation of an evaluation framework with a strong embedded equity focus, to answer the following key questions:
Are clients able to access support quickly and easily?
How is client feedback used to inform program design and delivery?
Are barriers to accessing services for equity-deserving groups being identified, acknowledged and removed?
What does collaboration look like between partner agencies?
How does the initiative demonstrate that it provides a useful service for people with mental health and substance use issues?
With an evaluation strategy in place, Counselling Connect can use data to make data-driven planning decisions to further improve delivery of care. Starting later this year, Counselling Connect partners will participate in a new series of quality improvement working sessions, where data from a monthly interactive dashboard will be used to establish and track progress on meaningful and equity-driven performance goals.
As the initiative focuses on long-term sustainability, the increased ability to provide data-driven services is assisting Counselling Connect in communicating its role within the broader support structure. Additionally, it highlights the positive effects on the entire system of offering free and timely access to brief counselling services for OHT-ÉSO clients.