The One Stop Talk program, which provides free mental health support, is now available to children and youth in Sarnia-Lambton.
St. Clair Child and Youth Services Interim Executive Director Craig McKenzie tells Sarnia News Today it's an "exciting new provincial initiative" that offers immediate single session counselling support to anyone aged 0 to 17.
"Ontario for the past number of years, really has been facing a mental health crisis," said McKenzie. "The children's mental health organizations across the province have recognized it and we've done our best to meet that need, but the demand, particularly following COVID, has certainly increased. So, we recognized that we needed to find a solution that worked for families."
McKenzie said families told them that only offering a service Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. doesn't always work and they listened.
"So, having access to this virtual option -- from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, or on Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.-- no appointments are required," he said. "You can go to the website or call the number and you get connected with a live counsellor right away."
Children and youth can access the program immediately as many times as needed.
"We have registered therapists from children's mental health centres providing the counselling," said McKenzie. "From Sarnia, to Windsor, all the way up to North Bay and beyond. It's right across the province. It really is filling in that gap and providing an additional layer of safety and security for kids and families across the province."
He said most sessions last about an hour.
"We have capacity to support bilingual service," said McKenzie. "So, if you need services in French, you can get connected to a therapist who's bilingual. We also have translation services to support over 200 different languages."
McKenzie said if further support is needed, that's where they step in to help make the connections locally.
"If you need more than one session, there's a hand off. So, you would get linked with a therapist in your home community," he said.
McKenzie said the program coordinates well with new services being offered in the community.
"This just adds another layer that complements the existing supports we've already introduced," he said. "I think Sarnia-Lambton is on a good path with the Youth Wellness Hub Ontario, the Sarnia site launch, but we know the need is great. The mental health and addictions situation nationally, provincially, and locally is at an all time high. So, this is a much needed resource and it comes at a good time."
One Stop Talk is funded by the Ministry of Health.