Summit Psychology to use CBRN grant to expand services and transition clients in rural Alberta communities to tele-psychology services

As part of its Canadian Business Resilience Network campaign, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, through the generosity of Salesforce (NYSE:CRM), provided 62 small Canadian businesses with $10,000 grants to help their recovery efforts during these unprecedented times. What follows the story of Summit Psychology from Innisfail, Alberta, one of the businesses that received a grant. 

Summit Psychology provides face-to-face mental health assessment, intervention and counselling services in the rural communities of Innisfail, Stettler, Hanna, Coronation and Consort, Alberta.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we experienced an almost immediate 75% decline in our provision of patient care,” explained Carla and Dean Turnquist. “Our telephones stopped ringing and our email inboxes remained empty like never before. No new requests for consultation and treatment were coming in. Referrals from physicians and other specialists ceased. Our regular patients that had previously booked and had scheduled upcoming appointments were cancelling their sessions at alarming rates.”

Due to a lack of appointments, Summit Psychology was unable to afford employee wages in addition to regular business expenses.

“In what seemed like overnight, we went from a flourishing business to nearly being forced to close our doors,” said Turnquist.

Although the Alberta Ministry of Health deemed psychologists to be an essential service, Summit Psychology was directed to transition their practices from in-person care to tele-psychology.

“Regrettably, patients were not accustomed to receiving care on the telephone or via a video screen and were and continue to be reluctant to engage in services in this manner,” shared Turnquist. “Consequently, the mental health of many individuals, couples, families and communities mental health care has been compromised. Their care will continue to be compromised until we can pivot and innovate services that better align with their comfort levels and personal needs.”

While restrictions associated with the pandemic have eased considerably, Summit Psychology is aiming to use tele-psychology as much as possible to ensure the health and safety of staff and clients.

With the CBRN grant, Summit Psychology intends to pivot their practice by initially educating and raising awareness about the many benefits of tele-psychology services for the provision of counselling and psychological care.

Turnquist notes that many studies are showing that virtual psychotherapy services used by those living in rural areas have benefits such as decreased travel costs, not having to find childcare, less time away from work, as well as improved anonymity for those that may feel the stigma or embarrassment of entering a clinician’s office or treatment centre.

“Naturally, as people become somewhat accustomed to using this modality, our business is certain to be resilient, particularly with a second and more severe COVID-19 wave predicted in the upcoming months,” said Turnquist. “The impact of the current wave on individual and familial mental health is also just beginning to emerge at alarming rates.”

Summit Psychology is the only mental health service provider in the majority of the rural communities that they serve. Members of the Innisfail & District Chamber of Commerce, Summit Psychology provides financial sponsorships to community events, gives school presentations and provides pro-bono services to those that cannot afford care.

“Summit Psychology is committed not just to the communities that we serve, but especially to their people. Because mental health matters,” expressed Turnquist.

To learn more about the CBRN Small Business Relief Fund and see the full list of award recipients, visit the Small Business Relief Fund page.