The Mental Health and Addictions Ministry of British Columbia is introducing more substance use teams to keep people who use substances connected to treatment and health care services. (Black Press Media file photo)

Province expands substance use teams to address overdose crisis

People who use substances to have greater access to health care services

The B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is aiming to fill gaps in services for substance use support.

People in B.C. who use substances can expect greater access to health care and treatment, as the province announced new expanded “substance use teams” on July 13. The teams will help ensure those struggling with addiction stay connected to health care options that suit their needs, and help to prevent overdoses.

Teams will be comprised of professionals such as nurses, counsellors, social works and outreach workers, and services offered through the teams will be be matched to each community’s needs. Some of the supports include helping people with substance use challenges find housing, connect them to primary care or clinical services, providing individualized care, and supporting people going through transitions to ensure continuity of care.

The initiative comes as a response to the escalating overdose crisis, with hopes of improving the system of mental health and addictions care across the province.

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Between 2016 and 2017, a coroners report showed that looking at 872 overdose deaths, four out of every five of the individuals who died were reported to have contacted health services in the year leading up to their death. The new teams will seek to reach more people struggling with substance use, and connect them with various care options.

The province will provide $4.27 million in annual funding for 2020 through 2021 for health authorities across B.C. in order to expand the teams.

“We know that most people who overdose have had contact with health services in the months prior to their death,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “These new teams will help ensure that when someone reaches out for help, they are not left to fend for themselves or sent back out into the community without support. Health professionals will walk alongside them to ensure they are connected to the resources they need when and where they need them.”

More of the province’s plan to address mental health and addiction in B.C. is highlighted in A Path to Hope, the province’s “road map” for improving the current system. For more information, visit www2.gov.bc.ca.

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