New funding strengthens mental health and substance use services

Interior Health to instigate support teams by February 2015 for Kamloops, Kelowna and the Cariboo-Chilcotin

Individuals living with mental health and substance use disorders will benefit from Assertive Community Treatment teams and a crisis response team providing targeted supports for Kamloops, Kelowna and the Cariboo-Chilcotin, a first-of-their kind for the Interior, Health Minister Terry Lake announced recently.

“While we have a strong base of services for people with mental health and substance use issues, there are some clients who require more intensive intervention and support to live a healthier life,” said Lake. “This will be possible with these new ACT and crisis response teams, and is just one example of work going on throughout the province to support those in need of additional support.”

Funding for the ACT teams and the crisis response team is provided jointly, with Interior Health contributing $2 million and the Ministry of Health providing $2 million for a total of $4 million. IH will establish Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams in Kamloops and Kelowna and a crisis response team in Williams Lake to serve the Cariboo-Chilcotin and 100 Mile House.

The ACT teams will be comprised of mental health and substance use professionals from various professional backgrounds, working together to provide treatment, rehabilitation and support to individuals who are suffering from severe substance use and mental health challenges.

Different from traditional programs, as the name states, the ACT team reaches out directly to clients 24 hours per day, seven-days-a-week, making client contact in the community as often as two to three times per day, based on individual needs.

“Interior Health is pleased to bring the ACT teams to our communities and clients in need, and will benefit from the experience of similar teams implemented in other health regions,” said Interior Health Board Chair Norman Embree.

In addition to the ACT teams, a crisis response team will be created to support clients in the Cariboo-Chilcotin geographical region. This team will consist of two nurses alternating to provide seven-day-a-week coverage and service and will also work closely with mental health and substance use and emergency department staff to support clients requiring intensive treatment and follow-up.

“We know that many individuals with serious and complex mental health and substance use illnesses use our emergency departments,” said Dave Harrhy, Mental Health and Substance Use Network Director. “One of the goals of these teams is to support clients to the point that they are better managing their symptoms and health in the community and are less likely to need to visit the emergency department.”

Interior Health is in the process of hiring staff for the ACT and crisis response teams, and hopes to see them in place by February with clinical programs starting in the late spring and early summer.

This announcement is partially funded by the $20.25 million earmarked for health authorities to invest in more local programs and supports to improve care for the severely addicted and mentally ill population.

This announcement builds on significant progress on the action items outlined in the Ministry of Health’s November 2013 report for individuals with severe addictions and mental illness, with even more programs to be announced in the upcoming year.

Interior Health is committed to promoting healthy lifestyles and providing a wide range of quality health-care services to more than 742,000 people living across B.C.’s vast interior.

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