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Breaking barriers on the South Shore - a vision of community-centered mental health and addictions care in Western Nova Scotia

Picture of a group of people.

Not confined by clinic walls but dedicated to the delivery of mental health and addictions treatment directly to the community, members of South Shore’s Mental Health and Addictions Community Outreach Team (COT) understand that healing often begins where people live, amidst the rhythm of everyday life.

"Our team, operates in an outreach capacity with the hopes of eliminating barriers to service accessibility," explained Jeff Walker, lead for South Shore’s COT. “We strive to meet the needs of individuals in a holistic manner, looking from a social determinants of health lens, whatever that might look like for the individual.”

The team is made up of a variety of disciplines including occupational therapists, social workers, community support workers and nurses. They work together collaboratively to match outreach needs to clients, from young children to older adults.

“As a team, we want to reimagine mental health and addiction treatment beyond traditional models,” described Walker. “We hope we are breaking down barriers that keep people from seeking help. By delivering care where it is needed, we are fostering a community that values mental health and addictions as an essential part of well-being.”

The COT provides programming focused on recovery and relapse prevention. They run parenting psycho-education groups that include Parenting Your Anxious Child and Promoting Positive Behaviors in Children.  

In addition, the team provides care for specialized populations and their families. This includes neurodivergent programming, Naloxone programming, a gender affirming care pilot and an eating disorders program. 

The team's distinctive approach is committed to meeting individuals ‘where they are,’ addressing mental and physical health needs and the many other factors that affect well-being. 

Walker noted “we offer clients an alternative to a conventional setting to address their goals, thus creating environments that encourage engagement with Mental Health and Addictions programs. We connect clients with other mental health and addictions programming as appropriate.” 

The COT takes referrals and collaborates closely with the Inpatient Mental Health Unit at South Shore Regional Hospital, the Recovery Support Centre at Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital, the Outpatient Child and Adolescent, Adult and Psychiatry teams. 

The team also works closely with community partners such as the South Shore Regional Education Centre, local daycares, the Department of Community Services, Wellness Courts, Continuing Care, and Home Support. Partnerships form a crucial link in creating improved continuity of care and improving the health of clients. 

The team strives for smooth transitions in the community setting, and between partners needed for continued support when their role comes to an end.

As a result of the COTS’s efforts, we are seeing changes within quality initiatives. 

The previous need for repeat acute hospitalizations has decreased, minimizing use of and strain on Urgent Care and Emergency Departments. Clients report an increased sense of community and belonging. The Gathering Place, a COT program initiative, for example, is a safe space to congregate and learn, and provides an opportunity for those with limited resources and transportation to have access to social interaction amongst peers. 

The team has observed a strengthening of therapeutic relationships, engagement of clients, and the building of skills that allows clients to live their lives more independently. As well, the COT provides increased opportunity for family members to be more involved with client care. 

The success of the COT in South Shore has gained recognition for their model of care and has expanded to other areas of the Western Zone. Individual programs like The Gathering Place and The Naloxone Project are now being created in the Northern Zone.

For further information about our team in South Shore, specific programming and referral process, please reach out to lead, Jeff Walker ( or program manager, Leslie Anthony-Clark ( 

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