Government commitment, combined with the implementation of a flexible, person-centric model of care, led to quick, flexible access to support for the wellbeing of people living in the Northwest Territories (NWT). In an exciting stride toward increasing access to flexible, culturally relevant mental health services, the Government of the NWT has ushered in a new era of mental wellness support by implementing Stepped Care 2.0 (SC2.0 ©).  Between 2020 and 2022, the implementation of SC2.0 has led to a 79% reduction in the average wait time for mental wellness counselling and has increased access to a range of valuable same-day care options.

SC2.0 is an intuitive model of care that is designed to increase access to mental and substance use health supports. Transitioning from a one-size-fits-all approach to tailored, individualized pathways has been central to SC2.0’s success. The model offers a flexible and inclusive approach by reimagining traditional approaches to care.  Both formal services and informal strength-based resources are incorporated into care options.

Carly Straker, Manager of Systems Quality and Integration in Mental Wellness and Addictions Recovery with the Government of the NWT, sat down for a conversation about system change in the NWT on the “So Why?” podcast. When discussing the need for system change, Carly shared: “In 2019, we recognized the need for more culturally safe wellness and recovery programming. We wanted to offer more options for care and increase access.”

Straker emphasized how the transformation has helped them reach their goal of supporting people when they need it, “Now the first thing people access is help.”  The NWT has introduced a range of supports, including same-day drop-in appointments, e-mental health options, land-based programs, and peer support. This diverse approach aligns with the varied needs of individuals and communities across the territory.

The model’s impacts are evident: 

    • More than 47,500 counselling sessions occurred from 2020 to 2022, with 27% being same-day or drop-in sessions.

    • 81% of Indigenous service users reported satisfaction with the safety of the counselling environment.

    • 72% of service users expressed satisfaction with the wait time for counselling.

While the road to the NWT’s successful implementation of SC2.0 was not without its challenges, the transformative impact has been indisputable. Straker emphasized that the system in the NWT will continue to evolve and change through community engagement, partnership building, and an unwavering commitment to quality improvement.

The Government of the NWT’s collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and Stepped Care Solutions has created hope for accessible, person-centred mental wellness services. The SC2.0 model exemplifies the profound influence of partnership, innovation, and a shared dedication to enhancing lives. As the ripples of transformation continue to spread across the NWT, the government’s commitment to mental wellness stands as a testament to the power of collective action.