Fraser Health officials say efforts around mental health are focused on developing services in the community

Mental-health services ‘keep up with growth’

Fraser Health encourages community services rather than hospital care

Mental-health services for South Surrey/White Rock residents are keeping up with the area’s fast-growing population and demographics, officials say.

But there will always be more that can be done.

“It’s always a challenge as populations grow,” Dr. Nigel Fisher, Fraser Health’s program director for psychiatry, acknowledged in an interview early this month.

“Whilst we always would welcome more, I think the White Rock area does reasonably well.”

Fisher – who has been a Fraser Health psychiatrist since October 2010, and in his current role since July 2014 – said efforts around mental health are focused on developing services in the community, rather than in hospital.

He said “95, 99 per cent of people with mental-health problems are being treated in the community, not in hospital, and I think it’s important that’s where we continue to invest.

“We’ve got a pretty comprehensive range of services.”

At Peace Arch Hospital, approximately five psychiatrists have been added to the mental-health tool kit “over the last year or two.”

At 12, the number of in-patient beds for psychiatric patients, however, hasn’t changed. But Fisher said that points to the focus in the past five to 10 years on community services.

“Our emphasis has been on trying to further develop community services rather than have more beds,” he said.

Fisher named the Early Psychosis Intervention Program, which launched its first site in White Rock several years ago, as just one of those services. It was developed to identify people as they first become ill with a psychotic illness, get them into treatment early on and prevent further harm.

“It’s a great program… well-established,” Fisher said.

Other services in the health region include an in-patient rapid-access clinic in ER, where a psychiatric nurse liaison is in place seven days a week; community mental health centres; an RCMP liaison; and contracted outpatient counselling.

Regionally, a “psychosis optimization program” launched in 2011, to ensure collaboration between an individual’s psychiatrist, doctor and other health providers with an aim to improving outcomes.

Resources such as Mindcheck.ca are also part of the arsenal. That website provides information to youth and young adults regarding mental-health issues, including how to recognize signs.

Fisher said there is a particular need for mental-health services for children and youth, and it’s hoped that a new in-patient facility anticipated to open at the end of next year in Surrey will help address that.

For seniors, Fisher said mental-health access is expected to improve through the rebuilding of Royal Columbian Hospital’s mental-health wing, a three-year project.

 

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