As told to Brian Chee
Patients and families with adult addiction and mental health concerns in the Edmonton area can now access services through a single point of contact.
Access 24/7 is a multi-disciplinary team that provides people with in-person assessment, crisis outreach and stabilization around the clock, every day of the year. Patients can access walk-in, phone and outreach services, including information and referrals to community care providers, resources, intervention, and treatment.
As a member of the team at Access 24/7, Kristina steps into a variety of roles as she helps people suffering due to addiction and mental health challenges.
Kristina: I chose to get into addiction and mental health for a variety of reasons. The primary reason was reducing the stigma around addiction and mental health. I think that there’s certainly less stigma than there was about ten years ago, but, unfortunately, the stigma does still exist.
I want to provide clients and families with a sense of hope that things can, and will, get better. I want people suffering from their addiction and mental health challenges to know that there are people who care about them, and who are willing to support them through these difficult times. There are people who care about them and value them as people despite their addiction or mental health diagnosis - those things don’t define who they are as a person.
One of the things I like about my position as a mental health therapist for Access 24/7 is that I get to do a variety of roles. It keeps my skills “fresh.”
Kristina: One of the things I like about my position as a mental health therapist is that I get to do a variety of different roles. The first role I may be assigned to is the crisis phones, where I answer live calls from clients, their families, friends, or other care providers and come up with a plan. Next, I can be assigned to stabilization. With stabilization we provide short-term support to clients, usually for about a month, when they’ve experienced a recent mental health crisis. We want to keep them in the community, keep them out of hospital, and teach them coping skills and how to move through or navigate different crises and come out on the other side. Third, I can be assigned to speak with patients and clients who come into Access 24/7 on a walk-in basis. Fourth, I might also be assigned to PACT, where I work with police partners as part of the Police and Crisis Team. One of the things that I like about my job is that there’s lots of variety, and I get to do different roles, and it keeps my skills fresh.
Kristina: For me, what I find most impactful is being able to support clients through the initial crisis, and help them come out on the other side, and in that, see that they are capable, they are resilient, they are able to get through difficult things. Again, I go back to that word, “hope,” providing clients and families with a sense of hope that things can and will get better.
Kristina: Since the Covid-19 pandemic started almost a year ago, I have personally noticed there’s been increased demand for our service. We have been very busy, in terms of the amount of calls that we get a day. In addition to that, I’ve also noticed that some of the clients we have interactions with have been sicker than perhaps they normally would be. This is due to a variety of reasons, whether that’s because their normal supports aren’t available to them, that they’ve lost their jobs, there’s difficulties with childcare, or they have financial concerns. I feel like there’s so many factors that have contributed to people having difficulty coping, even people who, generally speaking, are able to cope with stressors and handle things in stride. I feel like the pandemic has resulted in people feeling isolated, and are just having a difficult time overall, and are needing more support, in more tangible ways. Perhaps their normal outlets of coping with addiction or mental health aren’t available to them, so it makes things increasingly difficult for them.
Kristina: One of the challenges of working with Access 24/7, is also kind of one of the rewards. When people aren’t well, and they are at risk to hurt themselves or others, or at risk of getting worse in the community, within our roles at Access 24/7, we have the ability to take clients to the hospital if we think they need further psychiatric assessment from a physician. During my time working here, there’s been many times where we’ve determined a client needs to go to the hospital to receive further assessment. Although that can be a really difficult decision to make, and it can be a really heartbreaking decision to make, (especially when clients don’t want to go to the hospital or they’re being taken away from their family) there’s also reward in that those clients are able to get the help that they need, they’re able to be in a safe environment, and then, ultimately, they’re able to recover.
Although it’s difficult, I also see it as the start of a new beginning for them, a new opportunity for them, so that they can be well again.
Kristina: When I work with Access 24/7, I get to work with so many clients and so many family members. I think one of the biggest takeaways for me, in terms of success, is just working with the clients. They’re able to realize their own potential, their own skills, and their own ability to cope. When clients look inward and realize that they do have what it takes to overcome their current circumstances, or current situation; they can connect with the resources that they need to cope on a day-to-day basis, and that they are capable, resilient individuals.