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Health Minister Jane Philpott tours Ontario's only mobile health clinic

MOBYSS has served 4,170 youths in the last 18 months
Nov. 7, 2016
By Ali Raza

One in five youths lives with a mental illness, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

For many of those youth here in Stouffville and across York Region, access to mental health services is limited, out of reach or shrouded in stigma. CMHA aims to change that with Ontario’s first and only mobile health clinic known as MOBYSS (pronounced mo-bees).

MOBYSS stands for Mobile York South Simcoe and it serves as a “clinic on wheels” for individuals between the ages of 12 and 25. It’s been operating in York Region and southern Simcoe County for the last 18 months and in addition to saving at least three lives, CMHA says staff have helped 4,170 youths in that time or 230 per month.

On Monday, Nov. 7, MOBYSS stopped by at the office of Markham-Stouffville MP and federal health minister Jane Philpott, who toured the bus while getting briefed by CMHA York and South Simcoe branch CEO Rebecca Shields.

Philpott - who’s stated many times her commitment to increasing access to mental health care - was impressed with the unit, praising it a creative solution.

“It (MOBYSS) addresses some of the real concerns we have in terms of responding to mental wellness needs for Canadians,” she said. “One of the challenges is often accessing care. People either don’t know where to get care or they can’t get to places where it’s provided.

“The beauty of the mobile unit is that it goes to where people are,” Philpott added.

The mobile clinic brings mental and physical health services directly to high schools, youth shelters and community centres, so youth with hindered or limited access have the means to receive health care.

Services include mental health assessment, suicide intervention, counselling, sexual health and addiction education, basic primary care and health screening.

CMHA found that 40 per cent of appointments required mental health counselling.

“What we’re learning is that young people are very self-aware that they need mental health support,” Shields said. “Our ground-breaking clinic is providing life-saving support for youth in our catchment area. We’d like to see similar initiatives in other communities.”

MOBYSS is staffed with a nurse practitioner, a mental health counsellor and a peer support specialist, who together provide “holistic and barrier-free” medical, sexual and mental health care seven days a week.

The idea came out of feedback from focus groups organized by CMHA. Shields says the feedback they received made it clear that there was a need for such a service in the region.

“We talked to them (youth) and we heard over and over that youth couldn’t access services,” Shields said. “We knew they said it’s too hard to get around York Region, so we put it together by listening to those who needed the service.”

At $150 per visit, MOBYSS is funded by a variety of sources which includes the provincial government, corporations, individual and family donations and fundraising initiatives.

“We’re always looking for sustainable funding to expand services,” Shields said. “We know there is a need because of lineups at high schools.”