More mental health help available in Petrolia and Central Lambton


People who need mental health care are getting to see a professional a lot sooner.

The Central Lambton Family Health Team has reorganized services and added a second social worker to meet the demand for mental health services. And it has earned the group a provincial honour.

Health Team Executive Director Sarah Milner says the team identified the need for more mental health services a while ago. There was training for family physicians on how to spot some of the signs of certain types of mental disorders and what to do to help patients before they ever get to see a physiatrist.

A rapid assessment intervention team has also been formed.

After the training, Milner says the team was able to provide “more concrete information” to the Ministry of Health about the depth of the mental health problem in Central Lambton. And she says, they were able to convince the ministry to shift some of the health team’s money allocated for capital to hire another social worker four days a week.

Milner says it is allowing the health team to offer a lot more to people in need. “We’re partnering with the Canadian Mental Health Association to offer an anxiety group and were looking at doing another anxiety youth group,” she says adding a group for those with depression is also in the works.

“Now we are able to to do those extras that we didn’t have enough staff to do,” she says.

And, it means people are getting help faster. “We were starting to get a waiting list for social work and we didn’t want to see that,” says Milner. People who are suicidal are seen that day, if the situation is less urgent, they’re typically seen in a week.

“We always have some urgent spots in the schedule and if other patients cancel, we have a list of patients to call who could be seen.”

Milner says the integrated system is helpful as doctors can spot a problem, walk a patient down the hall to see a social worker and then monitor how they’re doing all within the same building. “We have someone right here we can link you with rather than having to worry about getting service,” she says adding it eases the doctors minds as well because the “know what’s going on.”

as the physicians work with so many people

The new system has not only improved access to mental health care in rural Lambton, it has earned the health team a provincial award from the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario.

The Bright Lights award recognized the teams work to improve services while using available resources.