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Community crisis services for mental health could near capacity

By: Jonathan Migneault - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Feb 18, 2014 - 11:32 AM |
Community mental health crisis services in Sudbury have seen a 62-per-cent increase in use since 2012. At the current rate of growth, it won't be long before demand outstrips the resources. Supplied (MC)

Community mental health crisis services in Sudbury have seen a 62-per-cent increase in use since 2012. At the current rate of growth, it won't be long before demand outstrips the resources. Supplied (MC)

Nurses and social workers available 24/7 through services

Health Science North's community crisis services, established to provide support for the growing impact mental illness has on the community, will need to increase capacity to meet demand, said a hospital representative.

Since the services launched in late 2012 it has experienced a 62-per-cent increase in patient visits.

Maureen McLelland, administrative director of Health Science North's Mental Health and Addictions Program, said with current resources the downtown community crisis services will eventually not be able to handle the growing demand for mental health support and treatment.

“We're doing a lot of work with our partners to build their capacity to deal with crisis,” McLelland said.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, one in five Canadians is affected by a mental illness or addiction issue every year.

McLelland said the burden of mental illness on the health care system is more than 1.5 times higher than all cancers combined, and seven times greater than that of infectious diseases.

The downtown community crisis services have a team of nurses and social workers available 24 hours a day to help people with mental illness or related issues.

“We'll deal with whatever the crisis is,” McLelland said.

Those crises range from people with more severe mental illnesses – such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder – who are not taking their medications, to teens who are bullied at school, and may feel suicidal, or an older person frustrated with providing care for a partner with dementia.

The community crisis services were established with an initial $1.2-million budget, and later received $596,000 in base funding from the North East Local Health Integration Network to continue operations.

That funding allows for around 22 full-time equivalent positions for the programs.

Since the hospital implemented its mental health crisis model it has reduced emergency department visits for mental health issues by 18 per cent.

Thanks to a program with Greater Sudbury Police – training 300 officers to handle people with mental illnesses – the crisis model has reduced arrests under the Mental Health Act by 21 per cent.

Thanks to an advertising campaign for the community crisis services, and outreach in schools, visits from youth increased by 200 per cent since the services launched in 2012.

Those visits included calls to a 24-hour crisis line, in person meetings at the downtown location – at 127 Cedar Street – and mobile services, where outreach workers can meet with youth at their chosen location.

“We've got pressures in young people that are remarkable in terms of what kids face these days,” McLelland said. “I see it as a positive that they're reaching out and seeking access.”

McLelland said the stigma surrounding mental illness has reduced, thanks to public health campaigns and changing attitudes.
Jonathan Migneault

Jonathan Migneault

Staff Writer

@jmigneault

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