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B.C. improves access to supports for youth, young adults experiencing psychosis

June 19, 2024 at 12:49 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

More young people who are experiencing early signs of psychosis are benefiting from expanded supports throughout the province.

In 2021, the Province announced the expansion of the early psychosis intervention (EPI) program. B.C. now has more than 50 locations where people can get assessed and connected to care. The Province has funded the hiring of up to 100 specialists to provide care and support to young people and their families in the program.

“Experiencing symptoms of psychosis can be scary and isolating for young people and their families,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “By connecting young people to early intervention supports, we ensure people experiencing psychosis for the first time are not left alone, and feel empowered to reclaim their lives. Through this expansion, we’re providing better access, hiring more staff and providing more young people with the wraparound care they need, when they need it.”

The early psychosis intervention (EPI) program is offered to people 13 to 30 who are showing signs of first episode of psychosis. Psychosis is a serious mental-health condition that can affect a person’s perception of reality, and often involves delusions, paranoia or hallucinations. These experiences often emerge during mid-to-late teenage years. They can lead or amplify depression or anxiety and their ability to function in daily life. Providing early integrated intervention is key to providing effective care and supports to young people and their families, and can lead to faster recovery, lower risk of relapse and more stability in people’s lives. EPI teams include psychiatrists, nurses, case managers and peer support workers, so young people can get wraparound supports when they experience early symptoms of psychosis.

“I never thought when I first got sick that, years later, I’d be coming back as a worker and trying to help others who go through the same thing I went through,” said Cameron Webster, a peer support worker with the EPI program. “It feels good. I get to help people who are dealing with the same issues I did in the past by using first-hand knowledge and experience.”

In Island Health, the program has been relocated to an expanded community space that is more accessible. It brings together youth and adult programs to support care transitions, care co-ordination, team collaboration and best-practice care. New staff have been hired, increasing capacity to follow clients for a longer period post-care, and enhances community engagement and awareness. The program now has capacity to serve up to 300 clients, from the previous 200.

“Treatment works best when it starts as soon as possible, and our recent service expansion is significantly improving the care and supports we can provide to clients and their families,” said John Braun, manager, South Island EPI with Island Health Mental Health and Substance Use. “By bringing together our previous youth EPI program and our adult EPI program, we have created a seamless, integrated program which serves people in a healthy way that supports wellness, recovery and ongoing connection away from the hospitals.”

The provincewide program expansion is supported by $75 million over three years. Health authorities have opened new locations throughout B.C., relocated in new community spaces that are more welcoming and accessible, hired new staff and increased collaboration among care team members. This way, the teams now have increased capacity to take on more clients, to follow clients for a longer period, and to ensure an integrated approach when other mental-health and addiction treatment is also required.

Providing supports for people living with serious and persistent mental-health issues is an integral part of the Province’s work to expand access to mental-health and addictions care, including increasing early intervention and prevention, treatment and recovery services, supportive and complex care housing, harm reduction, and more.  

Quotes:

Grace Lore, Minister of Children and Family Development

“Early treatment can make a life-changing difference in the life of a young person experiencing a mental-health crisis, which is why the expansion of this program is so important. It will give youth access to strengthened treatment and supports, so they can thrive and build a brighter future.”

Andrea Antonishen, Interior Health clinical manager, MHSU-EPI program –

“Our teams in the Interior are pleased to have the opportunity to expand our early psychosis intervention services. EPI programs are critical in the mental-health landscape as they focus on early detection and intervention, which significantly improves long-term health outcomes for those affected in our communities. Expansion will help us reach even more young people and their families in need of early intervention, comprehensive care and support.”

Andrew MacFarlane, regional director, MHSU, Vancouver Coastal Health

“Connecting young people and their families to care offers a lifeline to those grappling with emerging mental-health symptoms. Swift intervention doesn’t just alleviate immediate distress, it also shapes long-term resilience and recovery. Every moment counts in our endeavour to empower individuals, families, and communities towards brighter tomorrows.”

Cassandra Beaudry, manager, EPI program, Fraser Health –

“Since its inception in 2000, the Fraser Health EPI program has been dedicated to offering evidence-informed services to young people facing first-episode psychosis. We’re thrilled to announce Fraser Heath’s expansion from three to four regional programs, featuring a new hub in Surrey. This growth allows us to recruit specialized staff and more effectively address community needs, ensuring seamless access to integrated services for young people experiencing psychosis across the Fraser region.”

Chantelle Wilson, executive lead, Northern Health – Child and Youth Service Network –

“The importance of this work can’t be overstated. Early, integrated, and culturally safe support can be life-changing for young individuals living with psychosis. This investment is allowing us to expand and enhance our EPI program to ensure the best outcomes those in the North, including in rural and remote communities, which often face greater barriers to access.”

Quick Facts:

  • It is estimated that 75% of mental-health issues emerge before age 25.
  • Up to one in 30 people in B.C. will experience psychosis.
  • In 2022-23, an average of 205 people were referred to EPI programs in B.C., compared to an average of 166 people per month in 2020-21.

Learn More:

To learn more about early psychosis intervention, visit: https://www.earlypsychosis.ca/

To learn about the Province’s investment in early psychosis intervention in 2021, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021MMHA0039-001395

To learn about mental-health and substance-use supports in B.C., visit: https://helpstartshere.gov.bc.ca/

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