New website aims to improve access to counselling services

Posted on June 17, 2022 in Health Delivery System

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June 16, 2022.   MidlandToday Staff

Ontario Counselling Finder, developed by Orillia company, ‘created to help reduce barriers to access and increase program visibility’

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, growing public mental health demands have led to challenges finding locally available services.

There is a critical need to make local, high-quality counselling easier to access for communities across Ontario. A recent study across five of Family Service Ontario’s member agencies showed an increase in demand for counselling appointments of over 40 per cent since the start of the pandemic. Across the province agencies are reporting an unprecedented demand for service.

With in-person sessions greatly impacted by COVID-19, the Ontario Counselling Finder was created to help reduce barriers to access and increase program visibility across Ontario. Over 40 member agencies have come together to provide a platform to promote their service availability and offer virtual counselling, increasing service access for vulnerable families and communities throughout the province. With the website launch Monday, individuals, couples and families across Ontario can find providers and, in some cases, make appointments for counselling through one single door:

“For decades Family Service Ontario has tackled some of the most pressing social issues in the province’s social service sector,” says Susan Wells, chief executive officer at Family Service Ontario. “Right now the need for easy access to counselling, psychotherapy and community-based support is higher than ever.”

“Our hope is to increase awareness that these services are available, and to reduce the barriers in accessing them,” says Michelle Bergin, executive director of Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County. “There’s always a concern about having the capacity to deal with demand, but our hope is that initiatives like this one can also raise awareness about the urgent need for more mental health funding.”

With experienced therapists coming from multiple backgrounds and speaking multiple languages, the Ontario Counselling Finder aims to provide a diverse and inclusive environment. The network of therapists are all registered and experienced professionals, who work in collaboration with local services to assist clients with access to other supports as needed.

Family Service Ontario represents over 40 not-for-profit member agencies across the province who serve more than 250,000 individuals, couples and families annually. Family service agencies fill the gaps in mental health and wellness services for those who do not fit the criteria of other services and/or do not have the means to pay for individual, couple or family counselling.

Family Service Ontario, with the help of Caredove, an Orillia-based software company, has launched the Ontario Counselling Finder website using Caredove’s WebBuilder, where members of the public can enter their home address to find the nearest Family Service Ontario member agency. Member agencies can optionally allow the public to request an intake appointment through the secure e-referral platform.

The 10 lead agencies are Catholic Family Services of Durham, Family Services Windsor-Essex, Family Counselling Centre Niagara, Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County, Catholic Family Services of Toronto, Carizon Family and Community Services, Family Service Ottawa, Jewish Family Services Ottawa, and Willowbridge Community Services, with over 30 more agencies listed in the search directory.

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