Jewish Family Services of Ottawa: The Walk-In Counselling Clinic Project



When you think of mental-health services, a walk-in clinic probably isn't what comes to mind. But a new service in Ottawa is showing the value of timely, accessible help. It has been a year since The Walk-in Counselling Clinic, a project initiated by Jewish Family Services Ottawa (JFS) and funded by the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, opened its five locations.

It is well understood that the need for mental health services in the Ottawa area far exceeds available resources. Available statistics show long waiting times to access mental health services. The Walk-in Counselling Clinic was launched in an effort to reduce wait times and divert service requests at the local emergency rooms.

The Walk-In Counselling Clinic's five sites offer free, timely and professional mental health counselling seven days a week across the Champlain LHIN region. Anyone struggling with a mental health concern or stressful life event is welcome to attend. There is no need for an appointment or referral and everyone is provided service in a timely manner. By providing immediate support to people when they are most distressed, professional counsellors are able to support people in crisis, prevent situations from escalating to become crises, and even reduce the anxiety or distress that waiting for help can create.

As a direct result of the success of The Walk-in Counselling Clinic, and the recognition that Ottawa's increasingly diverse population also requires accessible mental health services, the Champlain LHIN has increased funding to enable JFS Ottawa to expand.  As of March  2015, the program has expanded to offer  services in four new languages – Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Somali – at three new sites across the city. Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, and Somali Centre for Family Services have partnered with Jewish Family Services of Ottawa to offer this valuable service.

Wendy Cotton and Kathryn Owens are clinical supervisors for Jewish Family Services Ottawa. See