In November 2013, the provincial government created a mental-health action plan to “reduce barriers and service gaps, and support evidence-based solutions for patients with severe substance use addictions and mental illness.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 6, Health Minister Terry Lake announced an additional $3-million of funding specifically for substance abuse education and training to add to the $20-million allotted originally to regional addictions programs and supports. The new $3-million partnership is between the provincial government and the education, care and research program of Dr. Evan Wood (co-director of the Urban Health Research Initiative as the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS at St. Paul’s Hospital and medical director of Addictions Services for Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care).
This funding will go toward a new B.C. addiction medicine diploma program at the University of British Columbia which will be linked to regional health authorities, as well as a first-of-its-kind Canadian network which integrates medical education, scientific research and clinical care to reduce the health and social harms of untreated addiction.
“There is an abundance of new knowledge available in the area of substance use disorder treatment,” said Lake in the announcement. “With the expertise and leadership of Dr. Wood and his colleagues in expanding the number of skilled addiction medicine providers and developing new ways of helping patients, I am confident that B.C. will remain a leader in addiction treatment education, research and clinical supports.”
Suzanne Anton, B.C. Attorney General and Minister of Justice, praised the announcement.
“Having seen first-hand the impact of addictions in our communities, I understand that it is important to reach out to those in need of care and provide even greater support,” she said.
Dr. Wood said that the funding will, “promote optimal patient care in B.C. by supporting professional education in addiction medicine and creating opportunities for inter-disciplinary collaboration amongst doctors and other health professionals to best serve patients facing addictions,” and, “enable B.C. to emerge as an international leader in addiction treatment and recovery.”
So what does this mean for the Mid and North Island region?
According to the Ministry, the training program will integrate existing medicine training programs for physicians and expand it to other health professional training.
This means that nurses, psychologists and social workers will now have access to addictions services training to which they didn’t previously have access.
Basically, more health workers will be able to receive addictions training.
The Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Program is another aspect of the funding allocation that will have a direct benefit to those outside the Lower Mainland, as patients, physicians and families of those with addictions issues will be able to consult much more immediately with addictions specialists at St Paul’s, one of the premier addictions centres in North America. This will reduce wait times for consultations, treatments, and reduce the need for travel, by enabling more healthcare providers, both front-line and support-based, to have more timely access to experts and resources.
The hope is that by having more people in the social system trained in recognition and treatment options, people with mild-to-moderate substance use issues can find treatment before they develop more complex problems, and being able to access that treatment sooner because of increased efficiency in communication and delivery.
The programs are currently in the development phase, so there are no details yet as to how these services will be accessed or implemented, nor is there a timeline for their expected progress, though the government did announce, as part of this initiative, a “three-year work work plan,” which will include, “building health system capacity.”
Watch for updates in future editions of the Mirror.