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Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services staff settling into a new facility

Staff with Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services (MMMHS) are settling into a new facility that will enhance service delivery.
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The new location for Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services. (Photo submitted)

Staff with Maskwacis Mobile Mental Health Services (MMMHS) are settling into a new facility that will enhance service delivery.

“The building is a major step up,” said Gail Lightning, MMMHS manager, adding that the previous location was a house with one main foyer room and two small offices for a staff of 10.

The new building includes six sound-proof offices which will serve to bolster the services the organization provides.

“It enables us to be able to provide more and different services, workshops, information sessions, and groups,” she said.

The new building is located behind the community’s ambulance base.

“Our job is basically to connect people to the resources that they require,” she said.

They also provide what are called compassionate referrals.

An example of this is when a staffer will take time to really listen to a person in crisis — being careful to show compassion and empathy in relation to a particular situation — rather than briskly referring them on without building a personal connection.

The idea behind being a mobile unit is that they have the capability to respond in person, no matter where the client is.

Staffers also work with the police and ambulance service to respond to those experiencing a mental health crisis or a tragic event.

“We work with the Ponoka and Wetaskiwin mental health nurses as well,” said Lightning.

The team also operates a 24-hour crisis line.

“The after-hours phone is to talk — people have anxiety, people have depression, they are grieving, they are dealing with addictions within their families. Those are good reasons to call us.

“We want to talk people through their moments of distress.”

The organization, which serves members of the Four Nations of Maskwacis as well as Pigeon Lake First Nation, was launched about 11 years ago with just one person operating one-on-one with those in crisis.

The idea came to Steve Skakum back in 2012 — at that point in time, he had a cell phone and no employees, said Lightning.

“It was started with the notion that a crisis doesn’t (necessarily) occur between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.”

A grand opening for the new building was held on July 21.

“It was a really nice day — we had visitors from Indigenous Canada, Victim Services, Ponoka, and Wetaskiwin Mental Health among others.”

For her part, Lightning has been with MMMHS for about two-and-a-half years on a full-time basis.

“Prior to that, I was a part-time navigator so I would take the crisis phone home with me every second weekend. And prior to that, I was a counselor with Maskwacis Health Services for 18 years,” she said.

“So I do have a good grasp on some of the issues people are facing, the uphill climb for mental health services and the gaps.”

Currently, prominent struggles include addictions and people battling feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, she said.

But she also points to the fact that there is a sense of resilience out there, too.

“We are trying to empower people,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see people get through their difficulties. And to see them find balance in their lives.

“You get a simple text that says, ‘Thank you, I really appreciate your help.’ That’s empowering for me.”

For more information, find them on Facebook or visit maskwacis-mmh.com.

The office can be reached Monday through Friday at 780-585-0048.

To access the hotline, call 780-362-2150.



Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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