Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services staff (photo provided by Gail Lightning).

Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services staff (photo provided by Gail Lightning).

‘We’re just trying to keep people alive’: Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services struggles to combat treatment waitlists

The organization says more government support and funding is needed

The Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services (MMMHS) is struggling to find ongoing support for community members.

According to MMMHS manager Steve Skakum, long treatment wait times are preventing them from getting people the help they need.

“We have a struggle because there’s quite a waiting list to get into treatment facilities, and so, people go back to alcohol and drugs way quicker than we can get them into facilities. So, recidivism is fairly high,” Skakum said.

MMMHS, part of the Maskwacis Ambulance Authority, operates under a three-step system beginning with getting emotional stability in the patient and ending in compassionate referral to programs to offer long-term treatment options.

The organization serves members of the Four Nations of Maskwacis and Pigeon Lake First Nation.

“Because of COVID, a lot of resources were shut down, and they’re careful about who they accept, and a lot of the therapists are leery to see people now. So we’re holding on to that population longer than we would really like to,” Skakum said.

“We’re just trying to maintain, [and] keep people alive. And through the continuous contact, I think you help to build their self-esteem and their resilience.”

To combat the wait times, MMMHS is working to establish after-crisis support to follow up with the population until they can get the proper resources they require.

Skakum said an increase in government support and funding is needed if they are ever to get people the proper care they need, but the likelihood of that seems like a “pipe dream.”

“Mental health has never been really high on any government agenda or on any health agenda,” he said.

The majority of people using MMMHS services are battling suicidal thoughts, according to Skakum.

The organization is also working to support those impacted by Pope Francis’ visit to Maskwacis in July.

“We saw quite a bit of internet traffic prior to the Pope’s visit. And so part of what we’re doing is to try and get a hold of those people because they put themselves on a social platform and ask them if they’re okay. But there’s been very little sense that it wasn’t as huge an event as we thought it was going to be. And so there’s less fallout from it than we first anticipated.”

Those looking to donate to MMMHS can do so on their website.

The 24/7 crisis hotline can be reached at 780-362-2150.