As an alternative to in-person visits, immediate access to counselling sessions and other appointments are available with our mental health providers by phone and eVisits (home video visits).
Remember, you can call us anytime for a same day appointment between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and if you are in crisis, COAST is available 24/7 at 1-866-550-5205.
What is a virtual visit?
A virtual visit is just like a regular appointment; the only difference is that you will see and speak with your CMHA Niagara mental health provider via video. An in-person meeting is not required. Instead of coming to a CMHA location, you speak with a mental health provider using a smartphone or your computer.
Why is CMHA Niagara offering virtual visits?
We are using virtual visits more often to reduce how many people come to our building. This is to protect our staff, individuals we serve and our community from the spread of COVID-19.
Virtual visits are not new. Health Care teams across the province have been using virtual visits for some time through the Ontario Telemedicine network (OTN) and CMHA Niagara has been an OTN service provider location for the past few years. However, we are now offering virtual visits for CMHA Niagara programs, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are doing this so that we can make sure individuals have access to care during this time, without exposing our community or staff to unnecessary risk. We recognize that each of us have preferences in what makes us most comfortable when seeking mental health support.
What happens during a virtual visit and how can I prepare?
Be ready to start your call 15 minutes before your scheduled time. Find a quiet, private space so that you can easily hear and be heard only by your mental health provider. Try to find a private space in your home where other members of your family cannot overhear your session. Use headphones if you can and avoid having other distractions (television, music, smart home devices, etc.) on in the background.
Make sure your technology is properly set up. Sign in 10 – 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment. To do this you click on the ‘Start eVisit” link in your email to join the video visit with your mental health provider on your smartphone or computer using the OTN video system. Check to ensure your video and microphone are working properly. You will be placed in a waiting room “Waiting for the Host to Join” until your mental health provider (“Host”) joins the visit.
If you have trouble with the video system, your mental health provider will call your telephone number instead.
Please call our office if you have any questions regarding your OTN appointment or if you do not receive this email from OTN. You can reach us at (905) 641-5222.
A few helpful tips:
• Be aware of lighting. If the lighting is too bright your mental health provider cannot see you properly and seeing your facial and body expressions is important during a video call.
• Have grounding items, things that bring you comfort, like your favourite tea or lotion, have pets nearby, if that is helpful.
• Have all your materials ready prior to the meeting including a pen and paper to write down information and instructions, notes about what you wish to discuss and questions you’d like to ask.
How will my virtual visit be booked?
Call our office at (905) 641-5222 and dial 0 to speak with reception about booking an OTN appointment with a mental health provider.
Our staff will provide you with two forms that you have the option of filling our prior to your appointment
- Confirming your consent and understanding to use the OTN system
- An intake form so that your provider can get to know you and be prepared for your appointment.
They are PDF fillable so you will not have to worry about needing a printer.
Our staff will book an appointment time for you through the OTN system. Appointments slots are available Monday to Friday starting at 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. or 3:45 p.m.
Remember, you can call us anytime for a telephone appointment between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and if you are in crisis, COAST is available 24/7 at 1-866-550-5205.
Once your appointment is booked, you will receive an email confirmation from OTN Follow the steps in the OTN email to confirm your appointment.
You may receive a follow up survey to complete so we can ensure we are providing best service possible.
Prior to your appointment we will require your consent when using the Ontario Telehealth system. Please open and complete the informed checklist for services via Telehealth.
For counselling sessions, you have the option to complete an intake form prior to your appointment. That form can be completed here.
What equipment do I need?
CMHA Niagara is using Ontario Telehealth Network (OTN) Hub. It is Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) compliant and can be accessed at no cost.
You will need
• A personal device (computer, tablet or cellphone) with a web camera and a microphone.
• If you are using a mobile device, download the Pexip Infinity Connect app for Android or iOS.
• High speed internet
• An email address
• Private space
• Pen and paper to write down any questions or instructions from your session
Can I cancel or change a virtual visit?
If you wish to modify or cancel your OTN appointment, we ask that you do this as early as possible so that the space can be available for another person. To make changes to or cancel your appointment, please contact reception at (905) 641-5222.
Is videoconferencing safe and private?
There is always some risk with any virtual care solution. Just like when using e-mail there is always a risk that your information could be intercepted/misdirected. However, the OTN platform is being used by many hospitals and health care providers in Ontario and Canada.
Calls and video are not recorded or kept by OTN after your appointment finishes.
WARNING: Electronic communication, including virtual visits and email, may have some risk. Third parties may take over electronic communication and introduce malware, phishing scams, or other unauthorized access.
CMHA Niagara is not responsible for the security of clients’ internet service providers, email domains, personal devices or personal computers.
We suggest that you use your personal email when communicating about your health and not a work email address, as your employer may have the right to inspect your work email.
Use a secure internet connection. Do not use a public internet connection such as at a fast food restaurant or café, public library or other open area. Other people may be able to use the link to listen in on your appointment without you knowing.
Email consent and safety
CMHA Niagara may also send you appointment information and other general information by email if you have consented to receive information in this way. Your health care team may ask you for consent to communicate using email when scheduling your virtual appointment or during the virtual appointment.
Please do not send emails for urgent symptoms or crisis needs. If you are in crisis call COAST at 1-866-550-5205. If you have an urgent medial issue, please call 911 or visit an emergency department.
Some care areas my send you a follow up survey after your appointment by email. This will help us improve the quality of our care. They should let you know about this during the appointment so check with them that they have your preferred contact details.
If you receive a link to a survey and are not sure if it is coming from your care team, please call them to check before clinking on any links.
Protecting your privacy
Your privacy is important to us. We protect your privacy during virtual visits in the same way as we do during an in person visit.
• Only the people providing care to you will be present during your appointment – unless you are part of a group care session, in which case other members of the group session will also be present.
• Our discussion during the visit will be documented in your health record, just like an in-person appointment would be.
We suggest that you take similar steps to protect your own privacy. This means being aware of your surroundings and who may be able to overhear your virtual visit.
Where can I learn more or provide feedback about virtual visits?
What can I expect during my immediate access counselling session?
Your mental health provider will work with you to ensure that your technology and space are well set up and working properly for your session. If there are any concerns or issues, your mental health provider will contact you by telephone. Your session will begin with reviewing the forms you submitted when booking your appointment and a review of the limits of confidentiality. The session will continue with discussions to discover your problem areas and what support is needed. Your mental health provider will work with you to provide information and resources that support and strengthen your mental wellness.