New mental health and addictions services coming to Fort St. John

By on June 29, 2015
File photo

Fort St. John Hospital. File photo

FORT ST. JOHN – Help is on the way for people struggling with mental illness and addictions in Fort St. John.

Northern Health is introducing new programs across northern B.C. communities to better connect those struggling with the help they need.

A new psychiatric liaison nurse position is being added to hospitals in Fort St. John, Prince Rupert and Prince George in order to reduce the amount of time RCMP members spend with patients in the emergency department.

The nurse will support physicians and staff by helping to assess the patient, and start determining the best supports, be that community based programs or in-patient care.

“Caring for people who are experiencing issues with mental health and substance abuse is a complex issue,” said Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, in a Northern Health press release.

“We know that it involves a number of community partners, including the RCMP and health care providers.”

Intensive case management teams are another way in which services are expanding. Prince George, Terrace and Fort St. John will now have community based outpatient support teams that provide street and community outreach services to people with mental illness or substance use problems to connect them with appropriate care and services to reduce their time spent in hospital.

“Mental health and substance use challenges are not only an urban issue, but also seen in rural and remote parts of our province,” said Cathy Ulrich, CEO and president for Northern Health.

“Having the new psychiatric liaison nurse and intensive case management team spread out across the region will help us to better serve residents closer to home.”

Also coming, just to Prince George, is Car 60, a program modeled after the Car 67 for Fraser Health residents, Car 40 in Kamloops, and Car 87 for the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

Car 60 is a community crisis response program that’s comprised of staff experienced in mental health and substance use problems, and a plain clothes RCMP officer. It connects a person in the community with appropriate supports, determines if hospitalization is required, and supports RCMP in developing a joint response in addressing community mental health and substance use related calls.

These new programs are part of the Ministry of Health’s investment of $20.25-million to health authorities to support programs and services for those with severe mental illness or substance use issues.

Bronwyn Scott

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