New team to help mentally ill, addicted in Cowichan

In a move to beef up services for people with mental health and substance abuse problems, Island Health is planning to add a new service in the new year.

An assertive community treatment team is being set up to serve the Cowichan Valley, starting probably around February, according to Sarah Plank, South Island media relations manager.

It’s all part of a multi-million dollar expansion of services on Vancouver Island.

"That is probably the biggest one for the Cowichan Valley," she said, adding that the yearly budget for that service will be $1.3 million.

Assertive community treatment means workers go out to where people live.

"It’s for generally the most vulnerable, at-risk people who find it much more difficult to engage with the health care system. They tend to need a fair amount of support but it needs to be brought to them," she said.

It’s not exclusively an outreach to the homeless.

"It could include homeless people but it would also be people who have housing but who have severe mental illness and potentially substance abuse issues as well," Plank said.

People will be referred to the team, but they can also get in touch through the hospital if they came in for an emergency service.

"It’s a way to support people so they don’t get to that state where they feel they have to come to the hospital for acute services. The idea is that they can be supported at home in a variety of ways as well as getting clinical mental health support and nursing support," she said.

Plank said she the team’s effect will quickly be seen.

"These teams have been a really effective way of supporting people who have severe mental illness. We have been introducing them to other communities across the Island with great success," she said.

It’s time to spend for new services all over the Island, according to Health Minister Terry Lake.

"Mental illness affects people from all walks of life throughout the province. Through Island Health’s three-year mental health plan, they are providing expanded support, beds and enhanced care teams, ensuring that services wrap around the individual, taking them from the hospital, to the community and back to their families."

Island Health CEO Dr. Brendan Carr agreed, "These new services will improve how we reach out and provide the kind of care they need, where they need it."