B.C. introduces first-of-its-kind mental health and addiction supports

VANCOUVER – Government is delivering on its Mental Health Action Plan to improve care for patients with severe addiction and mental health needs by launching an Assertive Outreach Team in Vancouver and opening a new Acute Behavioural Stabilization Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital.

In the past, we have seen patients with severe mental illness and addiction cycle through our health-care and justice system,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “The Vancouver team is the first of its kind in B.C. and, combined with the expansion of services at St. Paul’s Hospital, we will be able to provide more complete and supportive care to this vulnerable patient group.”

The Assertive Outreach Team includes a nurse, social worker, psychiatrist, physician and Vancouver Police Department staff. Members of the team work together to support patients who suffer from severe addictions and mental health issues and transition them from local emergency departments in Vancouver to appropriate community services.

We recognized that individuals with severe mental health and addiction challenges have difficulty connecting to community supports after their medical needs have been met,” said Anne McNabb, Vancouver Coastal Health’s director of mental health and addiction, inner city. “This team takes a rapid, hands-on approach to ensure patients are completing the transition from acute care to community care.”

The Assertive Outreach Team is a collaboration between Vancouver Coastal Health, the Vancouver Police Department, Providence Health Care and Mental Health Emergency Services. The $1.2-million program is expected to substantially increase Vancouver Coastal Health’s capacity to serve clients who are not currently engaged with traditional mental health and addiction services.

Our ultimate goal would be to guarantee the safety and well-being of every person we encounter who is suffering from mental illness,” said VPD Inspector Ralph Pauw. “Assertive Outreach Teams in our communities bring us a step closer to that goal.”

The Assertive Outreach Team will help support patients transitioning from the new Acute Behavioural Stabilization Unit at St. Paul’s. This new unit is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides nine dedicated emergency psychiatric beds located in a separate area of St. Paul’s emergency department.

A first of its kind for Vancouver, the unit offers short stay admissions (up to 48 hours) and was renovated to increase the capacity of St. Paul’s emergency department to treat this complex patient population.

St. Paul's Hospital has seen a 63% increase in the number of patients it treats with mental illness and addictions issues since 2009,” said Dr. Anna Nazif, medical director emergency psychiatry, St. Paul’s Hospital. “This area provides us with an opportunity to further improve the care we provide to patients.”

The unit is staffed with an interdisciplinary team of emergency physicians, emergency nurses, psychiatrists, registered psychiatric nurses, psychiatric assessment nurses and social workers, and receives input from addictions consultants. Staffing levels have been increased to include a clinical nurse leader/educator, an emergency room nurse and a social worker.

Addressing the interplay that often exists between severe addiction and mental illness is an important step to ensure we can provide appropriate care to this vulnerable population,” said Dianne Doyle, president and CEO of Providence Health Care. “As the primary hospital serving Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, St. Paul’s Hospital is committed to further enhancing our care to patients who have mental illness and the complexity of co-occurring illnesses such as addiction.”

These two supports are part of the strategies being developed in response to the report, Improving Health Services for Individuals with Severe Addiction and Mental Illness.

The Ministry of Health is making available a total of $20 million for regional health authorities to invest in more local programs and supports to improve care for this high needs population. In November 2013, the Ministry of Health created a mental health action plan to reduce barriers and service gaps, and support evidence-based solutions for patients with severe addictions and mental illness.

Learn More:
Improving Health Services for Individuals with Severe Addiction and Mental Illness plan:
www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2013/improving-severe-addiction-and-mental- illness-services.pdf

A backgrounder follows.

Media Contacts:
Kristy Anderson
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)

Dave Lefebvre
Senior Communications Specialist
Providence Health Care
604 682-2344 ext.66987

Viola Kaminski
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health
604 708-5338

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect

BACKGROUNDER

Two new supports for mental health and addictions

The Acute Behavioural Stabilization Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital includes:

  • Five new beds dedicated to SAMI patients and four seclusion rooms.
  • Three interview rooms for staff to meet one-on-one with patients in a safe environment for staff and patients.
  • An expanded seclusion area.
  • Upgrades to the bathroom, including anti-ligature fixtures purposely designed for mental health facilities.
  • New security cameras to better monitor the condition of patients.
  • An upgraded interdisciplinary space to encourage community mental health team members, emergency staff, police and health-care staff to work together as they discharge clients into the community.

Assertive Outreach Team:

  • The Assertive Outreach Team will work closely with Mental Health Emergency Services and the emergency departments at both Vancouver General and St. Paul’s hospitals to identify clients.
  • The team will support clients who have the most severe mental health and addictions issues, including individuals who may be involved with the court system or have an elevated risk for conflict and aggression.
  • The 1:1 ratio of clinician to Vancouver Police Department officer will ensure public and practitioner safety.
  • The team will help hundreds of individuals annually connect with community supports.
  • The team is a first in B.C. with respect to staffing, partnership and goals of the program.
  • The Assertive Outreach Team is different from Assertive Community Treatments teams in that they provide only a short-term transitional service.
  • There are 13 Assertive Community Treatment teams currently in B.C. that provide long-term community treatment and rehabilitation support. Another two teams are under development as part of government’s Mental Health Action Plan.
  • Government invests $1.3 billion annually in mental health and substance use services throughout the province.

Media Contacts:
Kristy Anderson
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)

Dave Lefebvre
Senior Communications Specialist
Providence Health Care
604 682-2344 ext.66987

Viola Kaminski
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health
604 708-5338

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect