New service to help with mental health

The En Route walk-in counselling service is located at Fresh Start in Swift Current. From left to right, Jodi Cave (administrator), Sally Wiens (executive director), Carrie Chambers (walk-in counsellor), Jenna Watson (social work practicum student).

A new mental health walk-in service in Swift Current will provide support to anyone who feels overwhelmed and needs help.

En Route walk-in counselling will start to provide free service at the Fresh Start office on Sept. 23.

The Ministry of Health selected Swift Current as one of several sites in the province for the expansion of this mental health walk-in service. Fresh Start Executive Director Sally Wiens is excited to provide the new service in the community.

“It enhances the service that we already provide,” she said. “Fresh Start reaches out to the community and provides service where people are struggling. We work with families that need additional support. We work with youth that need additional support. Now we work with the broader community who need additional support.”

This walk-in counselling service is designed to be accessible and to serve anyone who will benefit from additional support.

“The name En Route comes from the idea that we’re all on a path, a journey, a route on this thing called life,” she explained. “However, in life we sometimes encounter some bumps and we want to be there to support people in those times. So we’re not the end-all, we’re not the be-all. We’re just here to help them get back en route.”

The Saskatchewan government is providing $1.2 million in the 2019-20 provincial budget to expand this walk-in mental health counselling service to communities across the province. It was initially offered in five communities during a pilot program by Family Services Saskatchewan member agencies in Regina, Saskatoon, Yorkton, Humboldt, and Melfort.

The provincial government recently announced the expansion of this service to a total of 23 communities, including Swift Current.

“The Ministry of Health recognizes the need to support mental health in our province, and they demonstrated their commitment to that through this initiative,” Wiens said. “As the topic of mental health becomes safer, people are starting to share their stories and feeling accepted in that process. That has placed incredible pressure on our current systems. The whole intent of En Route is to provide counselling that’s readily accessible to people, but also we hope that this additional service is going to alleviate the mounting pressures that our current agencies are facing.”

Fresh Start has been a long-standing member of Family Services Saskatchewan, a provincial not-for-profit organization.

“This initiative has been a while in the making, and it’s exciting to see it all come together province wide,” she said.

The walk-in counselling service at Fresh Start will be provided by Carrie Chambers, who has a Bachelor of Social Work degree and a Child and Youth Care diploma.

“She has extensive experience in counselling and supporting individuals, and comes with a wide assortment of additional training to help with a wide assortment of needs that people may have,” Wiens noted. “So things like grief counselling, mediation, mental health first aid, self-harm training, and that list goes on and on. We’re so excited to have her on board and to be part of our team.”

An important benefit of the service is that no appointment is needed to talk to the walk-in counsellor and there is also no cost to access this support.

“It’s as simple as walking through the door,” Chambers said. “We will support you through the rest. We operate on a walk-in, first come, first serve basis. However, given the vast region that we live in, we will make appointments for those living in our rural remote areas. We will be open four days a week at the Fresh Start location, and in an effort to accommodate a range of needs, we have structured clinic days to provide service over the lunch hour, and we have extended hours one evening per week.”

The service is available to anyone of any age, but minors will require consent. The intention is to provide support to anyone looking for help with an issue, which might include stress, depression, anxiety, family conflict, and urgent mental health needs.

“There is no specific issue or diagnosis to access us, just a want for change is enough,” she said.

Chambers mentioned various reasons that someone might feel the need to visit the En Route walk-in counselling service, for example someone who needs help to move forward or support to sort through things, someone who lost a job and is trying to cope with financial struggles, a person struggling with the loss of a family member or close friend, or trying to cope with the terminal illness of a family member.

“Whatever it is keeping you up at night or preventing you from moving forward is sufficient enough reason to access this service,” she said.

Walk-in counselling is not meant to provide long-term counselling support, but she might do one session or a few sessions to help a person.

“You can come more times than once, but we would probably have a session and then try to have you incorporate some of those changes that we work on,” she said. “The focus of the counselling would be more solution focused, finding solutions and trying to figure out how to move forward from where you’re at. And if something comes up, you’re more than welcome to come back.”

This walk-in service will assist a person who needs additional and longer-term support to find that help through a referral.

“We can be that initial contact if someone is saying ‘I don’t know where I should be going, or what is happening for me, or I’m looking for that support,’” Chambers explained. “So if we aren’t that support, we will make sure that we get you set up with the proper support, or help you to figure out where that is and how to get there.”

The En Route walk-in counselling service starts on Sept. 23 at Fresh Start, which is located at 214 1st Ave. NE in downtown Swift Current. The service is available on Monday (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Tuesday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Thursday (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.), and Friday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.). For more information, call 306-773-8168.

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