Mental Health Navigator Introduced In Muskoka’s Emergency Depts.


Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) has invested in mental health care through a Mental Health Navigator that provides immediate support to patients in need at Muskoka’s Emergency Departments.

A Registered Social Worker with more than 13 years of mental health and addiction experience, Desiree Reisenburg has been involved in nearly 200 patient interactions at South Muskoka Memorial Hospital and Huntsville District Memorial Hospital since commencing the Mental Health Navigator role in November.

“Mental health is an important component of overall health and wellness and we recognize the growing need for mental health supports in our community especially since the COVID-19 pandemic,” says President and CEO Cheryl Harrison.

MAHC Emergency Departments are here for people experiencing mental health crisis and coordinates transfer of patients to facilities that provide inpatient mental health care.

“This role is an opportunity to enhance in-the-moment supportive care with early intervention for those most in need,” says Harrison. “The Mental Health Navigator also develops discharge care plans to connect patients with community-based resources for safely returning home, including referrals to Canadian Mental Health Association Muskoka-Parry Sound.”

Diane Brown-Demarco, Executive Director at Canadian Mental Health Association Muskoka-Parry Sound is excited with the investments of new resources in our community.

“We continue to work in close partnership with MAHC to ensure we build capacity to meet the mental health and addictions needs of individuals we serve,” says Brown-Demarco.

Since introducing the Mental Health Navigator role, first responder partners in our community are lending voices of support to improvements to holistic mental health care.

“In our communities people who are suffering often call on the police to help,” says OPP Constable Samantha Bigley. “Police officers attend and spend a good deal of time talking with those people and that is a conversation that often ends with a trip to the hospital. Knowing that our local hospitals have a Mental Health Navigator on the team gives officers confidence in making the decision, knowing that the person will be cared for and will have their needs met. The navigator makes the transition smooth and officers leave the interaction feeling satisfied that people are being cared for in the best way possible.”

The importance of supporting those with mental health injury/illness cannot be understated, and Muskoka’s paramedics witness the struggles of many in our communities first hand, adds Stuart McKinnon, Deputy Chief of Paramedic Services & Emergency Planning.

“Having a dedicated and knowledgeable mental health resource at MAHC to support patients brought in by paramedics provides them with quick access to the care they need, and has been a valuable addition to the health system in Muskoka,” says McKinnon.

Together with our partners, MAHC recognizes National Mental Health Awareness Week during May 1-7, 2023.


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