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Jan 25

Current BC Government Strategies to Tackle Mental Health and Addiction

In compliment to the Provincial Snapshot series which outlines how to access province specific public treatment, we are also profiling each provincial government’s strategies to tackle mental health and addiction. Outlined here are the promises the newly elected BC NDP government has made in regard to mental health and addiction that are intended to make recovery easier for British Columbians who are suffering from mental health and/or substance use issues.

Improving Access

Part of the NDP’s platform is the creation of a brand new ministry, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. This is in an attempt to streamline services and make the system more accessible to those who really need it. However, since mental health is still health, some industry professionals believe it should be part of the Ministry of Health.

An example of the confusing and complex way these services are listed is touched on in part one of this Provincial Snapshot. In order to gain access to public treatment in BC, people must access their local BC mental health and substance use services office. However, on the BC Mental Health & Substance Use Service website there is no list of these offices. People must go to their local health authority and search for the offices there. This roundabout way to get resources is one of the many reasons the system fails those who need it most.

Early Prevention

addictionMany mental health issues start to manifest themselves in adolescence and early adulthood. The NDP is looking to bolster support for youth struggling with their mental health by ensuring more counsellors in schools and support for community programs.

Evidence Based Treatment

Many health care professionals have petitioned for concurrent disorders to take centre stage in how we care for those struggling. A concurrent disorder describes someone that is dealing with both a mental illness and an addiction. The majority of those with a substance use problem also have a mental illness so it makes sense to prioritize the treatment of concurrent disorders. The NDP has taken this in stride and made commitments to using evidence-based systems of care to ensure concurrent disorders are treated. They do seem to be averse to investing in residential treatment, with a greater focus on fostering development of current community outpatient programs. This is likely inline with their priority on early prevention.

Opioid Crisis Specific Actions

British Columbia’s opioid epidemic is widely known, and it is an issue that has now gripped the entire continent. The problem has affected the US so significantly that opioid abuse has now lowered the average life expectancy for Americans. With a problem that is clearly systemic and multi-faceted, just how does our new government plan to tackle it? The NDP has pledged to provide more support for first responders: by assisting the police with more resources to disrupt the supple chain and providing mental health support to combat higher than average PTSD rates in first responders. Many British Columbians are already acquainted with Naloxone and the NDP plans to increase access to these life saving kits. It is a little surprising there was no mention of harm-reduction sites. In Vancouver these site have been proven to greatly reduce overdose deaths in injection drug users.

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