WINDSOR, ONT. -- Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare's Regional Children's Centre is offering to help students with back-to-school stress.

The centre’s team of over 100 staff of social workers, psychologists, management team and support staff are ready to help.

RCC is an accredited children's mental health centre operated by the west-end community based hospital that works together with children, youth and their families.

The experienced team of mental health professionals offer a variety of programs and services designed to be flexible and meet the individual needs of each child and family.

"We recognize that there may be anxiety and fear for both children and their families with the approaching return to school," said RCC mental health social worker Stacey Slobodnick. "Kids usually approach the back-to-school seasons with feelings of anticipation or with sadness as summer ends. This year, these feelings may be different and we want our community to know that our RCC team is here to provide support."

Throughout Ontario, there has been increasing demand for accessing community child and youth mental health services, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. These demands could result in increasing wait times and gaps in treatment.

"When children wait too long for treatment there is a profound impact on families, the broader health care system, hospitals and schools," explain Sonja Grbevski, HDGH VP of mental health. "Last year, our RCC team underwent what we internally coined 'A Transformation Project.' Together, we looked at improving our RCC client and family experience. This resulted in a completely new service model, ultimately improving access."

The goal of RCC's transformation work was always to address the long waits for service and to provide clients with treatment when they first need it.

HDGH officials say COVID-19's temporary pause of some of RCC services allowed for its fine-tuning. The average overall wait times have gone from 47 days in June of 2019 to nine in June of 2020 - representing an 80 per cent reduction.

Officials say this means barrier-free access for every client, who will receive a single-session treatment by phone, virtually or in-person, when they need it.

How does a child or family access RCC services?

The starting point to RCC services is by calling the Counselling Clinic at 519-257-KIDS (5437). This line is answered from Monday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday's from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If a young person is feeling sad, worried or angry, having fights with parents and loved ones, being bullied or dealing with personal issues, this is the first step for counselling and potential on-going treatment.

The RCC Counselling Clinic provides quick, confidential access to mental health services for children and youth up the age of 18.