Transitional aged youth in Middlesex County now have access to a free transportation resource to access mental health services. Called the County Transport initiative, it will help youth ages 16 to 25 in Lucan, Parkhill, Exeter and Strathroy-Caradoc get the mental health care they need, when they need it.
County Transport is being coordinated by MINDS of London-Middlesex, a program of Lawson Health Research Institute, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Elgin-Middlesex, Star Taxi and Middlesex County through the Lucan and Parkhill Libraries.
“Through our collaborative work, we’ve heard from many youth that transportation is a barrier for them when trying to access mental health services when in crisis. Youth in rural areas find this very challenging since most services are not close to their location,” says Romaisa Pervez, Research Assistant at MINDS of London-Middlesex.
Romaisa Pervez, Research Assistant at MINDS of London-Middlesex, is leading the County Transport initiative.
MINDS, a Mental Health INcubator for Disruptive Solution, is a social innovation lab with a mission to address the complexity of the mental health care system. Youth with lived experience, community members and researchers work together to understand and help those living with mental health challenges in London-Middlesex by designing, piloting and testing innovative solutions developed locally.
“We do not have the exact numbers of transitional aged youth living in rural Middlesex who would benefit from access to the County Transport Initiative, but we know that mental health services in rural communities are limited and that access to the services available in larger city centres is challenging due to transportation difficulties,” explains Cathy Burghardt-Jesson, Warden for Middlesex County.
“Transportation from Middlesex to London, where the majority of mental health resources are located, is underdeveloped as there are limited bus routes and schedules. This leaves little in the way of affordable transit options for youth in crisis.”
Youth in crisis who connect with CMHA’s Reach Out 24/7 line at www.reachout247.ca or by phone at 519-433-2023 will be supported and assessed by the Crisis Line staff. If it is determined that a visit to the London Crisis Centre is needed, the CMHA Crisis worker will ensure a smooth transition from the Crisis Line to the Star Taxi Service. The youth will be provided with free transportation to and from CMHA’s Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Centre located at 648 Huron Street.
To ensure the safety and wellbeing of the youth accessing this service, Star Taxi drivers have received training developed by CMHA regarding mental health and crisis de-escalation, as well as suicide prevention training by Living Works.
Funding for the initiative has been provided by St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation and the generous support of individual donors in the community.
“With additional funding, the initiative could be scaled up to reach as many youth as possible in Middlesex County and beyond. We want to see all youth in rural areas who want to access mental health services able to do so, by removing the barriers of location and transportation,” adds Pervez.
They will be collecting information regarding use of the transportation service and youth experience to refine and improve the initiative.