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Creating partnerships to address mental health, substance use challenges

Ministry of Mental Health & Addictions
News Release

TERRACE - Residents and communities in northwestern B.C. are being supported with rapid response from a new Northwest Specialized Response Team (SRT) for those facing mental health and substance use challenges.

"People in northern B.C. need and deserve access to vital addiction and mental health supports," said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "I'm grateful to see the co-operation of so many to create a system of care that meets the needs of people in each community."

The Northwest SRT includes two registered nurses who provide support and may accompany RCMP and other first responders to mental health and substance use-related calls. A pilot of the program in recent weeks has also seen the team work to provide follow-up visits for people who have experienced a recent overdose or require additional support or help accessing local services, including harm reduction, treatment and recovery supports. The nurses will also be able to support the transition if a patient needs to be admitted to hospital.

"We've recognized the need for integrated and collaborative approaches between first responders and health-care providers, to better respond to people experiencing mental health or substance use concerns, and to create timely connections to appropriate services," said Clare Hart, northwest director, specialized services, Northern Health. "These partnerships improve the continuity of care and reduce gaps for vulnerable clients."

The Northwest SRT is initially rolling out in Terrace, with two nurses on rotation seven days a week between noon and 8:30 p.m. The goal is to further expand support to Smithers and Prince Rupert in the coming year.

"We value the collaboration with health authorities on addressing the often-complex needs of individuals with mental health and substance use challenges," said Mike Robinson, acting officer in charge, Terrace RCMP. "While police have a critical role in responding to calls for assistance in a variety of circumstances, our desire is always to see individuals receive appropriate medical interventions and other supports that they may need."

The new service is a collaboration between Northern Health, the RCMP, B.C. Emergency Health Services, the First Nations Health Authority, local indigenous communities and municipalities.

"This new team is great news for the residents of northwestern B.C.," said Nathan Cullen, MLA for Stikine. "It's a testament to how people in the North come together to provide support during times of crisis and work to get people the help they need when they need it."

The team is funded through $55.5 million previously announced to support expanded overdose prevention services.

Expanding overdose prevention services and connecting people to mental health and substance use supports is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.'s roadmap for making the system of care better for people in British Columbia.

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