After the dust settles, people with severe addiction and mental illness can find help meeting the challenges of ‘day-to-day’ living, with two new Assertive Community Treatment teams, Health Minister Terry Lake announced today.
“The Assertive Community Treatment teams are a success story. Since January 2012, the Vancouver teams have proven themselves to be a unique and important approach for treating this specific client group,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “These teams illustrate that with the right mix of support and programming, it’s possible for even the most complex clients to attain a better quality of life.”
Assertive Community Treatment teams provide community treatment and rehabilitation for clients struggling with mental illness who may also have severe substance use addictions. That includes providing long-term 24/7 health care and life skills supports, including job training, assistance with finding independent housing, social interaction counselling, and maintaining physical and mental wellness.
This kind of help requires a team. Members of Assertive Community Treatment include nurses, social workers, peer support workers, physicians, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, vocational rehabilitation specialists and concurrent disorder clinicians.
“Assertive Community Treatment teams are an integral part of the continuum of care for this population,” said Andrew MacFarlane, a director of mental health and addictions at Vancouver Coastal Health. “We’ve seen that regular interaction with Assertive Community Treatment teams have reduced the length and frequency of hospitalization, and clients are also using fewer police and court resources. But most importantly, Assertive Community Treatment has been vital to helping clients reintegrate into society in a meaningful way.”
Vancouver Coastal Health’s first Assertive Community Treatment team was established in January 2012 in the downtown eastside in partnership with the Vancouver Police Department and BC Housing. Within the first year, those receiving Assertive Community Treatment follow-up had a 70 per cent reduction in emergency department visits, a 61 per cent reduction in criminal justice involvement, and a 23 per cent reduction in incidents of victimization.
Vancouver Coastal Health’s three existing Assertive Community Treatment teams currently support 215 clients. By adding two additional teams, which cost $3.6 million annually, the caseload can grow to meet the needs of 420 individuals. Currently in the beginning stages of recruitment, the two new Assertive Community Treatment teams are helping more than 20 clients. They will eventually assist between 80-90 clients based on individual client needs, for a total of 160-180 clients.
The Assertive Community Treatment team expansion is just one of many strategies being developed in response to the province’s mental health action plan and report, Improving Health Services for Individuals with Severe Addiction and Mental Illness.
Supporting this report, the Ministry of Health is making available a total of $20 million for regional health authorities to invest in more local programs and supports to improve care for this high needs population. In November 2013, the Ministry of Health 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.
Today’s announcement honours Mental Health Week, an annual national event recognized from May 5-11 to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health.
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health
250 952-1887 (media line)
Public Affairs Officer
Vancouver Coastal Health