Minto Counselling Centre is based in Cochrane, ON and also supports clients in Iroquois Falls and Matheson locations. The centre has limited office space and faced a problem of in-person client visits as the COVID-19 pandemic started. They had to close down the remote office in Matheson supporting clients only virtually. At the other two locations, they wanted to maintain access to needed services during the pandemic for the existing clients and for those in the community experiencing mental health issues due to the pandemic and have never accessed their services before. According to Katia Girard, Executive Director; they observed a decrease in the referrals after the pandemic hit and had to reach out to the community to inform them that they are actually open and providing virtual essential counselling services to clients. Social media was used to communicate with, and also educate, the clients and the wider community. The centre made arrangements to maintain physical distance by installing plexi glass barriers in Cochrane and Iroquois falls office board room for limited in-person visits.

Staff also observed clients in Iroquois falls experiencing hardships without access to public transit and hence quickly put resources in place to support these clients with weekly delivery from the food bank and also help with other on-demand errands (like phone cards) so that clients could continue to access services from home during the pandemic. Social isolation is also impacting clients with closure of on-site programs. Maintaining access to social recreational programming was critical and program workers started mailing out packages to clients with various activities which they could do at home. These included cooking recipes, puzzles, games, mindful exercises and mental health tips by developing a monthly activity calendar. Polices and procedures were developed, staff training for virtual care, ergonomic equipment was purchased; all these measures helped staff appreciate the centre’s engagement as well as clients in the community felt safe and cared for while stranded at home. Program workers and clients are impatiently waiting to return to face-to-face, group activities as virtual and mail-in information is not the appropriate long-term method to help treat the vulnerable clients in these northern communities.

Excellent and effective changes to ensure access to services during challenging times, great work all! We look forward to hearing more!

If your agency is currently engaging in rapid quality improvement work the E-QIP Team is here to help you document your experience!  Download our “Quick QI template” and email us at to speak with a coach about your QI initiatives during COVID-19!