With one third of Canadians at high risk for mental health concerns, Jewish Family Services (JFS) has responded with strategic, inclusive and sustainable programming that has positioned the organization to grow in a manner that aligns with community needs.
Part of this strategic development was initiated in 2010 when JFS received funding to rebrand its counselling program as “The Counselling Group”, signaling to the community that it offers an inclusive space for Ottawa residents to access professional mental health support. The Counselling Group offers individual adult counseling support through its general counselling program. It also now houses two other clinical programs: The Centre for Children, Youth and Families and The Centre for Couples and Relationships. Along with the growth of its clinical counseling staff from a small team of 6 to over 30 clinicians, JFS has also expanded its cultural and linguistic capacity to meet the needs of diverse clients. JFS now offers mental health programs in over eight languages, including English, French, Arabic, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Somali, and Russian.
In 2013 JFS also implemented the The Walk-In Counselling Clinic, which now provides free counselling to clients at 8 different sites across the Champlain region. The Walk-in Counselling Clinic served approximately 3,000 clients over the past year, and these numbers continue to grow.
Part of JFS’ success lies in the design of a sustainable financial model that has made it possible to serve lower-income clients through a sliding-scale fee structure. This innovative model has allowed The Counselling Group to offer over 8000 counselling sessions each year to clients of all income levels.
Ongoing assessment is a regular part of JFS programming, an approach that has created a culture of openness and flexibility as well as an attention to best practices. This growing professional expertise has transformed JFS into a dynamic hub for learning and training in Ottawa. Professional development opportunities are offered not only through internship programs, but also through training workshops provided by leaders in the counselling field. These opportunities are accessible to mental health practitioners across the city.
JFS also works closely with other organizations to better serve the Ottawa community. It strongly values its connections with over 80 community organizations, cultivates these connections, and encourages a spirit of collaboration.
While JFS has effectively risen to the challenge of addressing the increasing need for mental health support in Ottawa, mental health services in Canada remain grossly underfunded. More financial resources are required to meet the growing demand for affordable and accessible counselling, and to reduce the inequities of our current mental health care system.
Author: Susan Lee, MSW Student / JFS Counselling Intern