Strengthening substance-use treatment, recovery services in Fraser Health, all of B.C.

November 9, 2021 at 12:12 pm  BC, News, Politics

People in the Fraser Health region and throughout British Columbia living with substance-use challenges will benefit from the rapid implementation of new and expanded services.

These services will address critical needs across the continuum of care, including new substance-use treatment beds and enhanced addictions medicine supports.

“Our health-care system is undergoing a historic expansion of substance-use treatment and recovery services,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “When a person living with addictions is ready to take a step toward recovery, we want to help. That’s why the new substance-use beds in Surrey, along with Fraser Health’s new addictions medicine teams and virtual clinic, are so critical. People in British Columbia will have access when and where they need it – be it in a hospital emergency room, an urgent primary care centre or a shelter.”

Through the Provincial Health Services Authority, the B.C. government is adding 10 new specialized addiction-treatment beds for adults who need help with severe substance-use dependency and mild to moderate mental-health challenges. Opening immediately at Phoenix Society in Surrey, these beds will offer specialized care to adults from throughout the province, including those involved in the criminal justice system. They complement regional treatment beds and provide another step for those who need more intense services and supports. Acknowledging the disproportionate effects of substance use, this service will also prioritize the needs of Indigenous Peoples.

“Every day in our province, people are overdosing. We’re losing our friends, our relatives, our colleagues and our neighbours,” said Susan Wannamaker, executive vice-president, clinical service delivery, Provincial Health Services Authority. “Having the resources available for people when they are ready to receive help is so important. This investment in new addiction-treatment beds expands our capacity to do just that and will benefit people from across B.C. Thank you to our partners in government, in the regional health authorities and in the community for your commitment to providing the best possible care for people who are working to overcome their addiction.”

These new beds are an expansion of the 30 provincial beds created in 2017. People accessing these beds will receive client-centred, evidence-based treatment that is focused on trauma-informed and culturally safe care. They will also receive aftercare support for one year after discharge.   

In addition, people with substance-use challenges in the Fraser Health region will have access to new and expanded regional services, including expansion of the virtual health clinic, the new Addictions Medicine Consult Team (AMCT) at Burnaby Hospital and enhancements to existing AMCTs at the Royal Columbian and Surrey hospitals.

“We know that hospital-based addiction medicine consultation teams play a crucial role in ensuring patients receive timely and specialized management of their substance-use disorders, as well as ensuring patients are transitioned to community services and ongoing access to medications following discharge,” said Dr. Sharon Vipler, regional department head, Addiction Medicine and Substance Use Services, Fraser Health. “The new and expanded hospital-based teams will significantly improve patient care, while expanded virtual health addiction services will ensure that many more people across our region get connected to the specialized addiction services they need.”

Addiction Medicine Consult Teams offer constant addiction medicine expertise to any hospital-based patients that need it. The introduction of a new AMCT in Burnaby Hospital will fill a gap in care for patients that have substance-use challenges and will ensure a continuum of care beyond in-patient services. The team will make sure people are connected to ongoing services at discharge, including outpatient clinics and access to medication-assisted treatment.

Existing AMCT at Surrey Memorial Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital will expand to include one new social worker on each team. These new positions will play a pivotal role in helping people transition safely to services in the community. 

Hospitals, as well as other sites such as shelters, community clinics and isolation centres that do not have access to an AMCT, will benefit from the expansion of the Virtual Health Addictions Clinic (VHAC). VHAC uses virtual technology to provide addictions medicine consultations to more people where they are and when they need it. VHAC opened in March 2020 and quickly reached capacity due to high demand for virtual services. This expansion will allow VHAC to offer services to more locations and further reduce barriers that prevent people from getting the help they need.

These new and expanded services are part of the $132-million investment over the next three years for treatment and recovery services through Budget 2021’s historic $500-million investment in mental health and addictions care.

Enhancing B.C.’s response to the overdose emergency is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for building the comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care British Columbians deserve.

Quotes:

Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers –

“The poisoned-drug crisis continues to take a significant toll across the province and our community has been one of the most impacted. I’m grateful that these new treatment and recovery services will help more people in Surrey and across B.C. get and stay connected to the substance-use care that they need.”

Bruce Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley –

“This is great news for people living with addiction in my riding and throughout the Fraser Health region. I’m glad to see that Surrey will receive some of the services that are being rapidly expanded across the province to address the poisoned-drug crisis. These new services will help people get substance-use support close to home where it is urgently needed.”

Keir MacDonald, CEO, Phoenix Society –

“Phoenix Society welcomes the addition of these new specialized substance-use treatment beds in Surrey. We thank the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Provincial Health Services Authority for committing to 10 new licensed treatment beds at our Quibble Creek facility. It is crucial that treatment programs be expanded amidst the ongoing drug-poisoning crisis that is taking six lives every day in British Columbia. With this investment, we will see increased access to treatment and recovery services right across the province, including those exiting the criminal justice system; a group known to face elevated risks within their first months following release.”

Nelson Mendonca, peer support worker, Phoenix Society –

“Coming out of jail, this program gave me a great opportunity to stabilize my life and find my bearings. I’ve become a better person and blossomed because of the community and connection I found at Phoenix Society. In my experience, being incarcerated makes it challenging to navigate information on resources related to bed-based treatment programs. It’s my goal to help alleviate the stress of individuals looking to enter similar programs after they are incarcerated. These new beds are going to make a huge difference.”

(Mendonca entered Phoenix Society’s Intensive Residential Treatment Program in the summer of 2020. He is now a peer support worker employed by Phoenix Society. He is set to graduate with his social worker diploma from Vancouver Career College in January 2022.)

Quick Facts:

  • The Surrey Memorial Hospital AMCT consults with an average of six to 10 new patients per day, and Royal Columbian Hospital AMCT consults six with new patients per day.
  • Research shows that the availability of hospital-based addiction medicine consult teams results in improved rates of abstinence after discharge, improved engagement with primary care and HIV services, and has been associated with decreased homelessness. 

Learn More:

Phoenix Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Education Society: http://phoenixsociety.com/

A Pathway to Hope: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCMentalHealthRoadmap_2019.pdf

A Pathway to Hope progress report:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/mental-health-addictions/pathway_to_hope_update_report_final.pdf

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