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New walk-in clinics for mental health open in Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander

<p>Operations spending cuts at Central Health and the shelving of lab improvements at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre were announced as part of the provincial budget.</p>
Central Health

GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – Starting this week, there is one more option for those seeking help with mental health concerns.

“Sometimes, I think people just need to talk about their problem, just to get it out,” Diane Minhas, director of mental health and addiction for Central Health, told the Advertiser.

“It gnaws at them, and it worsens while they’re waiting.”

This is the problem a new program called Doorways is seeking to remedy. Just like a walk-in clinic for physical ailments, the facility will be open – as of Jan. 30 – to people with an issue they want to address right away, but do not consider a crisis. Anyone experiencing a crisis in which they think they might hurt themselves or others should still go to a hospital emergency room or call the crisis hotline.

“There’s no intake, no wait list, to get in,” Minhas said, giving examples including feeling bullied at school or at work, or getting news of a difficult diagnosis as reasons a person might seek help at Doorways.

It’s not long-term counselling, though the mental health professional may very well recommend that route over the course of the 50-minute session. Minhas said between 40 and 50 per cent of people who seek treatment really only need that first session to help them with strategies to get through a difficult time.

“It’s really to complement services we already have throughout the region,” she said.

A clinic opened in Gander last week and on the first day, five or six people came through the door. In Grand Falls-Windsor, the clinic will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the community and public health building at 36 Queensway. With two clinicians on staff, it will be able to see about a dozen people every day. 

The Doorways program was established in the province on the recommendation of an all-party committee that toured Newfoundland and Labrador several years ago, canvassing residents for suggestions concerning mental health treatment. The model has been proven to work well in the rest of Canada, and Eastern Health opened clinics in 2017.

“We identified long wait lists as a big problem,” Minhas said, noting the clinics are geared to see people as soon as possible. “By the time people were seeing someone, they might have learned to live with it, or it might have exacerbated the problem.”

Sarah.ladik@gfwadvertiser.ca

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