Response to Ontario Today, “Having a hard time accessing mental health help?” October 20th episode.

Thank you for highlighting the growing challenges of accessing mental health services in Ontario. We need more of these conversations as the demand for service skyrockets and available services decline.

I am concerned that there was a significant part of the story that was not discussed.  I represent a network of community-based counselling agencies across Ontario who collectively provide psychotherapy to over 100,000 Ontarians each year with more than 700 registered professionals, in 70 locations, including remote communities.

The frontline is not only primary care, as suggested. Community-based counselling agencies, such as our family service agencies are also the frontline, with walk-in clinics and, comparatively, minimal wait times for service. A doctor referral or diagnosis is not needed to access our services. Ontarians knock on our doors because they are dealing with an issue that goes beyond their current coping abilities. As noted by one of your callers, they do not always define it as a mental health issue. They have their own definition of the problem, and it may not fit eligibility criteria set out by other service providers. However, family service agencies have cobbled together government funding, earned revenues from sliding scales and charitable donations to fill the gaps in mental health care, regardless of eligibility criteria.  For over 50 years we have been the primary source for low to moderate mental health services across Ontario.

While thousands of Ontarians continue to find us, we are sometimes overlooked as an option by other service providers within the broader healthcare system.