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Connecting Calgarians to provide better access to mental health supports

Mental health services are critical to a safe and healthy city, and every day more Calgarians request access to services across the city. Many individuals face challenges navigating multiple fragmented systems amongst well-meaning service providers.

Disjointed care, without a comprehensive approach, hinders effectiveness and efficiency, and ultimately impacts people requiring services. Integrated care aims to connect people to the right services at the right time, and reduce the fatigue of repeatedly sharing personal stories by ensuring relevant information is shared among providers.

To combat the challenges faced by this lack of information sharing, innovative support agencies the Distress Centre and Kindred are leading collaborative initiatives to help centralize their respective processes and move toward a person-centric approach to care.

Both Robyn Romano, CEO of the Distress Centre and Jessica Cope Williams, CEO of Kindred are excited to integrate their existing systems to better serve the community. “The more conversations Robyn and I had about our initiatives, the more we knew they fit together,” says Jessica.

In 2022, in partnership with other organizations, the Distress Centre started on the development of the Community Information Exchange (CIE), a collaboration bringing together network partners from multiple domains, including health and wellness, housing, justice and legal, economic stability, and education in order to share information.  The CIE removes the burden of an individual having to navigate each piece of the system separately. Similarly, in September 2020, Kindred created Community Connect YYC (CCYYC), a platform that helps to consolidate and book counselling appointments across the city.

As both initiatives continue to grow and evolve, the Distress Centre and Kindred are exploring ways to integrate the systems to deliver a more comprehensive approach to mental health care. Recent funding from The City of Calgary’s Community Safety Investment Framework (CSIF), a collaborative funding partnership between The City and Calgary Police Services, is helping them achieve this goal.

“We think of these projects as the same project living in different lanes – at some point we want to bring them together so that they serve each other and Calgary,” says Jessica. “The funding from CSIF will allow us to do that.”

Robyn agrees. “The big thing about these projects is the coordination,” she says. “Often counselling can be a first step and people may need added support and services after that. By continuing to bring these services together we can help those who need these supports.”

While the Distress Centre and Kindred are in the initial phase of determining how to best incorporate these systems and work together, they are quick to credit The City with giving them the inspiration to collaborate. “The [Mental Health and Addictions] Strategy did a good job of bringing agencies together,” says Robyn. “The Strategy gave organizations a common language and some common goals,” adds Jessica. “It was a significant investment to be able to put that all together.”

Both Jessica and Robyn agree that this budding partnership will make life better for Calgarians. “This is getting people the services they need,” says Jessica. “The organizations are doing the heavy lifting, as opposed to that resting on an individual to get the help they need. It shifts the burden.”

“This project is a great example of the community coming together to better serve people,” adds Robyn. “It’s years in the making but it’s something we’re all willing to be in together, because we know we can build something better for the people we are serving.”

Categories: Community