East Montreal health services has reduced its mental health waiting times

The east Montreal health and social services department (CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal) says it has considerably reduced its waiting times for access to mental health services. Thanks to the ELAN project, people in need receive a response to their request for help within an average of 20 days.

The ELAN initiative was set up in 2020, when 2,220 people were on the CIUSSS waiting list for mental health care.

“In 2020, we had a lot of people waiting to access our services, and we wanted to optimize our (mental health) access desk. So we wanted to review the way our work was organized, and came up with the idea of setting up a team that could provide (short-term) intervention,” said France Gélinas, Assistant Director of Mental Health Programmes at the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.

The CIUSSS then called on its staff to set up a team dedicated to short-term follow-up.

“We knew that 30 per cent of all the requests we receive can be answered in two or three interventions, and then the person can continue on their path to recovery,” said Gélinas.

There are now 450 people on the waiting list at the east Montreal CIUSSS mental health access desk. Patients can expect to receive a call from a professional following an initial request after a maximum of 45 days. In 2020, a person needing mental health support could wait up to 562 days for a response.

Patients continue to send their requests to the mental health access desk. They are redirected to a member of the ELAN team depending on the assessment of their situation.

“Initially, this team was intended to be temporary,” said Gélinas. “However, the team is still in place today to help the ‘regular’ counter workers when the volume of requests increases. Even today, we deploy the ELAN team when we see that there is a higher volume of requests at certain times of the year.

Gélinas added that these workers can be called upon at any time, so that the population does not experience long waiting times, as was the case in 2020.

The east Montreal CIUSSS plans to introduce a centralized mental health access point in the coming months to promote “equity of access for all CIUSSS service points,” according to a press release issued by the institution.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 16, 2023.

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