What is the system challenge?

St. Joseph’s Care Group (SJCG), Alpha Court, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) have been partners in a centralized client referral system for many years. Previously, the system only included Mental Health Outpatient and Case Management services. 

These partner organizations have identified gaps in the system and have worked together to improve coordination of care by creating a new online database to manage referrals and waitlists for clients with mental illness.

What are we doing about it?

The Northwest Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) team in Thunder Bay team partnered with local organizations to assess their centralized mental health intake process and identify gaps and priority areas requiring improvement. 

Similar to Toronto's mental health and addictions Access Point web portal, but tailored to the unique needs of the Northwest region client base, the team developed “Access Point Northwest” - an online wait-list management tool that provides clients with a simplified, coordinated online mental health and housing services referral process via a single application and referral assessment process. The system processes referrals, conducts brief client assessments, and matches clients with appropriate mental health and housing services. Referrals can also be completed over the phone or in person and permits the easy collection of system navigation data. 

This process included the addition of housing coordination and chronic pain to centralized intake which required changes to the way referrals are completed and new software to assist service coordinators in helping clients. All service coordinators will now be housed under one roof and will be cross-trained to accept referrals in any program. Service coordinators will be knowledgeable about external services offered by organizations that do not participate in Access Point Northwest so they can refer clients who do not meet the criteria of services offered. All external client referrals will be done with a warm hand off to their new agencies.

How do we know it works?

Northwest Access Point will ensure entry into service is accessible, timely, and equitable...and is also a promising source of data to assess trends in the need for and provision of mental health services

— Nicole Latour, Executive Director of Alpha Court

Access Point Northwest removes guesswork and ensures patients access the right care at the right time. This collaboration is one way we are improving experiences for patients.

— Jean Bartkowiak, President & CEO, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre

Access Point Northwest is the first of its kind to support the outpatient referral process for clients and primary care providers in the northwest. This shared model has been successfully implemented by CMHA branches in other areas in Ontario, and we look forward to reaping similar benefits to access and care.

— Sharon Pitawanakwat, Chief Executive Officer, CMHA Thunder Bay

Who is involved?

?What's this?

Full Implementation

Officially launched in the fall of 2017, Access Point Northwest provides coordinated access to a number of services within the large network of service providers through one application and referral assessment process. Community and stakeholder education about Access Point Northwest is ongoing.

Next Steps

The Access Point Northwest website has been developed and will be launched in the fall of 2017.  Community and stakeholder education is ongoing.


Erin Dunn, Manager Northwest Region

The Access Point Northwest (General Inquiries: Janice Maki)