Mental health and substance use services bolstered in Vernon

Click to play video: 'New substance use services announced for Vernon, B.C.'
New substance use services announced for Vernon, B.C.
WATCH: A provincial minister was in Vernon, B.C. on Monday to announce additional mental health and substance use services. The new services are expected to fill local gaps in care. However, there were also questions about other services the area is still lagging behind other parts of the province. – Mar 14, 2022

Mental health and substance-use services will be expanded in Vernon, the provincial government announced Monday.

Four new services, four expanded services, and 19 full-time equivalent workers will be recruited to provide substance use and mental health supports in the North Okanagan.  The new additions and services will be funded by the province and delivered by Interior Health. Recruitment for these new and expanded programs is underway, with some services expected to be available as early as April 2022.

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“Within our region, it is estimated that more than 20 per cent of people will meet the criteria for substance use disorder at some point in their lifetime,” Susan Brown, president and CEO, Interior Health said in a press release.

“The services announced today will help build a well-connected, safe, and person-centred network of treatment and support for people with problematic substance use.”

Young people aged 12 to 24 with significant substance-use concerns and concurrent disorders who face challenges accessing health or social services will have the support of a new interdisciplinary intensive case management team.

Additionally, substance-use counselling services will be available for young people aged 12 to 24 along with their families, and young adults aged 18 to 24 who have complex substance-use needs will have access to individual, group and family substance use day treatment programs.

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Okanagan heart attack pilot project credited with improving patient outcomes

Another newly introduced service in Vernon provides a priority response to young people aged 12 to 24 who have recently had an opioid overdose or are at high risk for drug poisoning. Youth Substance Use Connections connects them to available community services, such as medication-assisted treatment.

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“For people in the North Okanagan who are struggling and in crisis, the addition of these substance-use services will make a big difference in their lives,” Harwinder Sandhu, MLA for Vernon-Monashee  “These are the services our community needs to transform mental health and substance-use care for children, youth, young adults and their families.”

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Existing programs, such as early substance-use intervention, early psychosis intervention and eating disorders treatment services are expanding to reach more people with mental health and substance-use challenges.

In addition, the nurse prescriber working at the downtown mental health and substance use centre can now prescribe more options for medication-assisted treatment of opioid-use disorder.

The B.C. Coroners Service announced in February that illicit drug overdose deaths were the highest-ever in Vernon in 2021, at 42 last year, compared to the 27 illegal drug overdose deaths recorded in the North Okanagan city in 2020.

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