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'A Northern Ontario solution for Northern Ontario people'

Today was a good day for those in the Algoma region in need of mental health and addiction support. This morning at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Sault Ste.

Today was a good day for those in the Algoma region in need of mental health and addiction support.

This morning at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Sault Ste. Marie-Algoma branch, it was officially announced that Algoma is the first hub in the Northeast region to create centralized access to mental health and addiction service providers, including counselling, therapy, and support groups.

"One of the things that is most challenging… is individuals who may struggle to find where they go to get help, who do they speak to, when can they come and see someone, what kinds of services are available to them. This [program] is really important," Sault Sault MPP David Orazietti during his address this morning.

The Central Access and Information Service quietly launched at the beginning of January 2014 as a partnership between the CMHA Sault Ste. Marie-Algoma and North Shore Community Support Services in Elliot Lake.

Since the launch, 133 area residents have called Central Access seeking information relating to mental health and addiction services, 25 percent of them from individuals who are new to the system, said Annette Katajamaki, executive director of CMHA Sault Ste. Marie-Algoma.

Approximately 28 percent of those who used the system since the January launch were experiencing grief and loss issues, Katajamaki announced.

"The number of folks that reached out with bereavement issues surprised me," she told "People who are already in the system can usually figure out the system. But from the outside looking in, it's very confusing. I was surpassed, pleasantly, that people are using this as a first stop."

Katajamak hopes the new Central Access and Information Service helps those in need locate the service and support they require in a timely and efficient manner.

"Often times, [clients] arrive at our door after knocking on many doors, calling many members, and they're very confused about the system," said Mike O'Shea, Northeast LHIN mental health officer. "I think the Centralized Access concept is really important and we're proud to have that in Sault Ste. Marie."

"In the North, we appreciate that we need to do things slightly different than in Southern Ontario," he explained. "Often times, we get policy from Southern Ontario… and we try to implement Southern Ontario solutions. I think our LHIN has embraced the concept of Northern Ontario solutions for Northern Ontario people."

For more information about the CMHA Central Access and Information Service, please click here.

A news release issued by the office of MPP David Orazietti follows.

Orazietti announces $172,000 investment for mental health and addiction services

Ontario government improving access to mental health supports in Sault Ste. Marie

SAULT STE. MARIE - Today, David Orazietti MPP, announced the launch of Centralized Access, a first for the North East, at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Sault Ste. Marie-Algoma.

Sault Ste. Marie and area residents can now access the Mental Health and Addictions services and information they need by calling a single phone number.

“The Centralized Access model will provide Sault and area residents with streamlined access to various mental health services available in our community,” said Orazietti. “Provincial investments in this type of mental health service will create new jobs and give individuals access to the treatment and support they need, closer to home.”

Centralized Access - which is operated between 8:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday to Friday - began taking calls on January 6 of this year.

It pulls together the services and information offered by 13 providers in Algoma.

Centralized Access is the result of strong partnerships between Algoma’s mental health and addiction providers. 

The new model will be evaluated and process improvements will be made by the committee over the coming year.

“Centralized Access will help people connect more easily to care available in their community including counseling, therapy and support groups.” said Louise Paquette, CEO of the North East LHIN. “The North East LHIN identified making mental health and substance abuse services more accessible as one of its four priorities in our latest strategic plan.”

In addition, a new pilot project that has increased the CMHA’s Clubhouse hours of operation - extending them to seven days a week and longer hours each day was announced.

The new hours are being piloted on a trial basis until the end of March to see how consumers benefit and whether the new hours have a positive impact on the number of mental health visits to the emergency department and after-hours crisis calls.

This is the first Clubhouse to do so in the North East.

Three additional peer workers and one clubhouse worker have been hired to provide coverage for these new hours of operation.

Today’s announcement represents a total provincial annual investment of $172,000.

“We are so very excited to have both of these two new resources available for the people that we serve and those that we do not yet serve. Mental illness and addictions continue to be prevalent in all communities and to be able to offer services in the evenings and weekends is a wonderful addition to the service system,” said Annette Katajamaki, executive director of CMHA Sault Ste. Marie/Algoma Branch.

Quick facts

  • Centralized Access: Residents can call 705-759-5989 or 1-855-366-1466 to be connected with services or information. The line is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Friday. They can also present in person to the CMHA at 386 Queen St E, in Sault Ste. Marie
  • New hours for the CMHA’s Clubhouse: 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday to Sunday
  • There are 48 mental health and addiction providers in the North East Region, of which 13 are located in the Algoma area
Pictured: Mike O'Shea, Northeast LHIN mental health officer; Karlynn Berger, CMHA peer worker; Annette Katajamaki, executive director of CMHA Sault Ste. Marie-Algoma; and Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti.