Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Virtual Care Crucial During COVID-19

“Don’t wait to seek help: Virtual care to support Canadians is available now,” urge mental health and substance use organizations

Ottawa, June 26, 2020 — As concerns rise over the well-being of people in Canada, leading mental health and substance use organizations are highlighting the value of virtual care services for managing issues related to mental health and substance use during the pandemic. When it is difficult for caregivers and clients to meet in person, technology can enable them to meet virtually.

A new resource, Virtual Care for Mental Health and Substance Use During COVID-19, highlights the importance of seeking care and support early on, and provides information on how to access the many virtual care options available to help people in Canada, including the recently launched Wellness Together Canada portal.

“Recent polling conducted for the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) by Nanos Research tells us that, while the mental health of people in Canada is worsening, access to online services remains low,” said Louise Bradley, MHCC president and CEO. “We know that a big part of opening the door to care is raising awareness. So we’re reminding people that there are free, readily accessible mental health supports available, even in a time of physical distancing.”

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) — in partnership with the MHCC, the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and the Canadian Psychological Association — developed this resource to address concern that people in Canada may not be seeking or accessing help for mental health and substance use issues.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused stress and anxiety for many Canadians and in some cases is influencing their substance use,” said CCSA’s CEO, Rita Notarandrea. “While physical distancing measures have created challenges for people accessing in-person services, there are many excellent virtual care options available to help Canadians. If you’re struggling during these challenging times, please don’t wait to reach out for help. Seeking care and seeking care early can safeguard mental wellness and reduce substance use harms.”

“At The Royal, our use of secure video conferencing to deliver care has been growing steadily over the past ten years with proven results, including a high satisfaction rate among clients,” said Joanne Bezzubetz, president and CEO of The Royal. “During the pandemic, we have built on this knowledge to quickly transition from in-person services to virtual care. In fact, in May we conducted 2,030 virtual appointments over the Ontario Telemedicine Network — that’s almost a 400 per cent increase over the same month last year. By embracing technology, services like The Royal’s rapid access addiction medicine clinic, family support groups and a new prompt care clinic are able to safely provide care and support that is crucial to well-being during this challenging time.”

“In recent years, we have seen more psychologists employ technology in their practices, typically in addition to rather than as a replacement for face-to-face services,” said Dr. Karen Cohen, CEO of the Canadian Psychological Association. “With the challenges presented by COVID-19, those psychologists who may not have been using technology to deliver services are doing more so now. There is a lot of mounting evidence that Internet-delivered cognitive behavioural therapy is effective in the treatment of depression and anxiety, the two mental health problems most likely to be experienced by Canadians, with anxiety being a common mental health impact of COVID-19 in particular.”

The virtual care resource builds on a suite of resources developed by CCSA, MHCC and other partners.

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