ON the heels of a substance use survey that reached nearly 1,200 people, Fraser Health is implementing a number of actions to improve access to substance use services.
“As we escalate our response to the overdose crisis, connecting people to treatment is a top priority for our government,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The innovative work that Fraser Health is doing to connect people to services quickly when they reach out for help is what makes the difference and saves lives of people living with addiction.”
The majority of survey respondents were people who use substances and their support networks. To make it easier for people to access the supports they need, Fraser Health has created a new Substance Use Services Access Team that allows family practitioners, emergency departments and hospital staff to call one number to speak to a team of substance use professionals, make referrals or ask questions around services. The team will provide confidential services including providing information, individual counselling, and family support, and will facilitate access to treatment.
As well, Fraser Health is bolstering the 24/7 Fraser Health Crisis Line (604-951-8855 or toll-free 1-877-820-7444) to create an immediate access point for people who are in urgent need of support related to their substance use. Previously, the Crisis Line primarily focused on supporting people with mental health concerns. If a person calls the line, a trained volunteer on the other end can help identify a person’s needs, connect them to appropriate services, and help refer them to other resources as necessary.
“The data collected in our recent survey has provided powerful insights into how we can better support people who use substances, as well as their families and friends,” said Fraser Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Victoria Lee. “By identifying where the opportunities are, we can work with our community partners to ensure the services we provide are accessible and appropriate for people as they address their substance use.”
To better support families and friends with a loved one who uses substances, Fraser Health is expanding its existing Family Support Services program. New Fraser Health-funded resources include Parents Forever, a weekly education and support group operated by the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC. In addition, the Sashbear Foundation will offer a 12-week educational group program called Family Connections at locations throughout Fraser Health. This program provides skill building support to family members of a person with mental health and substance use challenges.
Fraser Health is also expanding its regional and community-based mental health and substance use advisory committees by adding an additional two new spaces in each of the 11 committees across the region. These 22 new spaces will be dedicated to hearing from people who use substances and their families. Each committee provides monthly feedback to Fraser Health’s Mental Health and Substance Use program.
Since concurrent mental health concerns can act as a barrier to treatment for almost 50 per cent of people who struggle with substance use, Fraser Health is further integrating substance use services into existing mental health services to strengthen this connection. For example, Fraser Health will open new opioid agonist treatment clinics in White Rock and Langley at locations that deliver mental health services later this year.
The drug use survey and resulting actions are part of Fraser Health’s multi-faceted strategy to address the overdose emergency in the region, which also includes prevention, early intervention, harm reduction and treatment. This strategy supports the work of the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA) to take action to save lives, end stigma, and connect people to treatment and recovery. Through the development of a comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy, MMHA is working to develop a seamless and connected pathway forward in response to the overdose crisis and to better serve British Columbians with a system of mental-health and addictions care here in British Columbia.