On April 25, 2016, VGH will open its Access and Assessment Center. It is a 24/7 service meant to serve adult Vancouver residents with mental health or substance use difficulties who require immediate help but not hospitalization. It will work closely with the VGH Outpatient Team, the Cross Cultural program, SAFER (Suicide Attempt Follow Up Education and Research) and Community Link Program (a program that helps persons with serious mental health issues achieve their goals in leisure, education, work and other areas). Persons who require mental health services but no emergency services will see a mental health professional right away and will then receive follow up appointment within three days.
This effort is part of the overall VCH Mental Health and Substance Use redesign. The center will be on the VGH campus at 711 West 12th at the corner of Heather and 12th, accessible through the service road/parking area off Heather Street.
The program was designed with the help of client and family input. When the design was almost completed, the Mental Health and Substance Use program invited clients and families to a café style event on February 17, 2016. Management involved with AAC presented the design so far, asked attendants what questions they had, and asked attendants for additional input.
Here is a summary of that event.
Some questions that were important to attendants were
• How will the AAC work with other departments such as Acute Home Based Treatment, Emergency, the Psychiatric Assessment Centre, Inpatient, etc.?AHBT and Emergency work together?
• What about people who really need to be in a hospital?
• Will there be a map to show how AAC works and how it works in conjunction with the other parts?
• What about concurrent disorders? How is addiction involved? Will there be detox?
• What about the 3 day waiting period – what if a person deteriorates within that time frame?
• Will this stop the revolving door of people coming to the hospital, getting discharged prematurely, and getting readmitted? Or is AAC just a way to cut down on beds?
• What about people who see private health care providers – is this still going to be a problem for them in terms of accessing VCH services?
• Will there be enough doctors available at AAC?
• What about wait lists for groups? They are so long right now, it’s demotivating.
• What will be the role of Peer Support Workers at AAC?
Many of these questions will be answered at the Family Conference on April 23 – please join us there!
In terms of attendants’ input and wishes, around 60% fell into eight categories – the need for more family involvement, accessibility, groups (esp. educational groups), information about the new services, concurrent disorders/addiction, better training of staff re mental health/substance use, peer involvement, and follow-through so that people with mental health difficulties do not fall through the cracks. Here are some sample comments:
- Every staff member gets training on family involvement – tools, understanding the policy
- That all who need treatment (detox, long term recovery, etc.) can access it without delay
- Education services available for people while in hospital, including a detailed plan for what to do is essential
- GPs and all mental health teams and clinics advise/promote/aware of programs so counsellors can advise patients
- Integrate mental health and substance care. Addiction seen as primary diagnosis. Learn from the person
- GPs trained in mental health and substance use services
- Increased peer services, integrated with programs
- When a person’s mental state needs help to cope to “normalize”, this AAC will hopefully follow through and not let the person fall through the cracks and disappear (i.e. revolving door)
Other topics of interest to attendees were a need for centralized services, housing, home-based treatment, programs for people in in-patient units, the need for creative and resourceful staff, the availability of counselling, outreach, more beds, the needs of people with mood disorders and personality disorders, youth, stigma, the need for good assessments, and help with system navigation.
VCH Management has taken all this input into account. The leadership team supports the input and direction from our clients and families and as we move our system forward we are always open to explore different initiatives that will improve our service delivery models and improve client and system outcomes.
Says Monica McAlduff, Director, Mental health & Substance Use: “Your voice is our change driver.”