Mak­ing progress

Wait time for men­tal health and ad­dic­tions coun­selling ‘a thing of the past’ on Burin Penin­sula, min­is­ter says

The Southern Gazette - - Front Page - BY PAUL HERRIDGE GRAND BANK, N.L. [email protected]­erngazette.ca

It’s quite a dra­matic re­ver­sal. One year ago, the wait time to re­ceive men­tal health and ad­dic­tions coun­selling ser­vices on the Burin Penin­sula was 180 days. Now it’s zero.

Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Min­is­ter John Hag­gie likes what he is see­ing since the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a pri­mary health care ap­proach in the area and is hop­ing it can be “cloned” else­where in the prov­ince.

“Es­sen­tially there is re­ally no area of the prov­ince with a health care fa­cil­ity that I wouldn’t see at some point would be able to fall into this mold,” Hag­gie told The South­ern Gazette in a phone in­ter­view on Mon­day, July 30, af­ter at­tend­ing an event at the Dr. S. Beck­ley Health Cen­tre in Grand Bank.

He was in the area to give an up­date on the Burin Penin­sula pri­mary health care team – a group that in­cludes peo­ple with lived ex­pe­ri­ence, com­mu­nity lead­ers, and mem­bers of schools and churches, in ad­di­tion to front­line health care providers.

The team works with the Burin Penin­sula Com­mu­nity Coali­tion for Men­tal Health and Well­ness and the pri­mary health care com­mu­nity advisory com­mit­tee to iden­tify pri­or­i­ties for the re­gion.

Speak­ing at the event, Eve­lyn Til­ley, Eastern Heath’s re­gional man­ager of men­tal health and ad­dic­tions, said it all started when Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews reached out for help on be­half of his town in the spring of 2017.

Til­ley said, within a short pe­riod, 10 peo­ple on the Burin Penin­sula had died by sui­cide, four of them from Grand Bank.

Eastern Health com­mit­ted to em­ploy­ing a pri­mary health care ap­proach on the Burin Penin­sula, she said, fo­cus­ing on men­tal health and ad­dic­tions to start due to the star­tling num­ber of sui­cides.

Make a dif­fer­ence

A stake­holder group was formed a cou­ple of months later. A process to coach and em­power that group along with the pri­mary health care team was then car­ried out in part­ner­ship with the Depart­ment of Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices.

“This process en­cour­aged us to be­lieve that we could re­ally make a dif­fer­ence, we could make changes,” Til­ley said. “We’ve proven that once you lis­ten to peo­ple, change is very much pos­si­ble.”

That lis­ten­ing re­sulted in mov­ing from a tra­di­tional ap­point­ment ser­vice to walk-in ser­vices.

Til­ley said no-shows and can­cel­la­tions have also been elim­i­nated, free­ing up time for more fo­cus on ad­dic­tion pre­ven­tion and pro­mo­tion.

“It’s been in­spir­ing to us as clin­i­cians as we move for­ward with fresh en­thu­si­asm. We feel own­er­ship of this new ap­proach be­cause we were part of the process of cre­at­ing it along with the rest of the stake­hold­ers,” Til­ley said.

Hag­gie told The South­ern Gazette wait times are “a thing of the past” as pa­tients can now ac­cess ser­vices when they need it.“They have the care that be­gins at that point, they can be re­ferred on for other things, and they know they can come back and there’s no chal­lenge in get­ting back if they need to,” he said, adding ev­ery­one bought into the move to the walk-in sys­tem.

At­ti­tudes shift­ing

Among the other speak­ers at the event was Natalie Ran­dell who lost both her hus­band and brother-in-law to sui­cide.

The Grand Bank res­i­dent sug­gested at­ti­tudes to­wards men­tal health and ad­dic­tions are shift­ing.

“Our com­mu­ni­ties are start­ing to come out of the dark and stop hiding, and leav­ing the stigma of sev­eral years ago in the past, ex­actly where it be­longs,” she said.

Call­ing it only the be­gin­ning, more must be done, she said, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion and ad­di­tional sup­ports, as well as un­der­stand­ing, re­spect and em­pa­thy for peo­ple strug­gling with men­tal health and ad­dic­tion is­sues.

The body and mind are one unit, Ran­dell said.

“It needs to be treated that way.”

FILE PHOTO

Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Min­is­ter John Hag­gie

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