AHS: Secret of our ‘Access’

Mental health info in Calgary just a phone call away

Story and photo by Janet Mezzarobba

Dheny Rivas has struggled with depression since she was seven years old.

By the time Rivas was a teenager; she was desperate for help and decided to take action.

“I went through a period of being completely housebound and dealing with daily panic attacks. I needed to finally find help and truly manage what I was going through,” says Rivas, now 21.

ns-mental-health-access-calAfter doing an internet search and finding information about Access Mental Health, Rivas decided to call the Alberta Health Services (AHS) line and ask for help.

“Access Mental Health was the starting point to my recovery,” she says. “They guided me to the right services and normalized mental illness for me. The service they recommended turned out to be the best place for me and I was able to begin focusing on getting better.”

Access Mental Health is a single point of entry for community-based addiction and mental health services in Calgary. The service grew out of an identified need to streamline access to mental health services and help people navigate the health care system.

Although not a crisis line, the service is staffed with mental health professionals who are able to provide consultation, and refer callers to the best service for their immediate needs.

“Anyone can access us – our clinicians are able to provide information and advice to people on almost every available addiction- and mental health-related service available in the Calgary Zone of AHS,” says Debbie Molloy, Manager, Access Mental Health.

“That includes those for children, teens, adults, and senior citizens.”

Access Mental Health has information on thousands of addiction- and mental health-related resources. This service is a place to discuss someone’s concerns and determine what direction might be most helpful. Clinician knowledge spans all ages, problem areas and location within the city.

“Creating one point of access was found to be the most effective and efficient way to manage access and flow for clients dealing with addiction and mental health issues,” says Molloy.

“With centralized access, clients don’t have to keep telling and re-telling their story to different professionals – we can guide them to the best place for care and treatment, helping them receive the most appropriate service for their individual needs as early as possible.”

The line operates Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and can be reached by calling 403-943-1500.

Access Mental Health resource and wait list information is updated regularly to ensure the most complete and current information is available for callers.

The service is also available to physicians and other community professionals for advice on what services are best for a specific patient or client.

Access Mental Health is celebrating 10 successful years of service. Hundreds of people every year are referred to AHS, not-for-profit, and community-based programs and services.