OHS Canada Magazine

Mental health, addictions issues can be assessed virtually for rural Nova Scotia residents


August 22, 2022
By OHS Canada

Health & Safety Addictions Mental Health nova scotia Rural Virtual Care

(Andrii Zastrozhnov/Adobe Stock)

Rural residents in Nova Scotia can now have issues with mental health and addictions assessed virtually.

The Rural Access to Urgent Care initiative provides people attending rural emergency departments for urgent mental healthcare the option to receive a virtual mental health and addictions urgent care assessment.

“There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mental health and addictions concerns,” said Brian Comer, Minister responsible for the Office of Addictions and Mental Health. “Having a variety of supports and services makes it possible to improve access and ensure people receive care that best meets their needs. Initiatives like this also help the health system by alleviating pressures on access and flow and reliance on emergency health services.”

Reduced wait times

Previously, a person seeking urgent mental healthcare had to present to a rural emergency department and then be transferred to a regional site to receive services. The Rural Access to Urgent Care initiative allows assessments to be conducted virtually, which reduces wait times, improves access and eliminates travel to other regions.

During the assessments, a healthcare professional works with a person and their family or loved ones to understand their needs and then, if required, helps stabilize them while making a plan of care involving their clinician or a mental health treatment program.

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The initiative is a partnership between Nova Scotia Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program, Virtual Care-IMIT – Nova Scotia Health’s information technology management team – and emergency departments, the province said in a press release.

Pilot project

It was piloted in September 2021 at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish in March 2022. Work is underway to expand the program to the western area of the province, including the Annapolis Valley and South Shore, this fall.

People experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis can call the provincial Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line, which is available 24/7 to individuals or people concerned about them; the toll-free number is 1-888-429-8167

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