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Northern Health review provides recommendations for Downtown Prince George health services

Northern Health
News Release

A review of the Northern Health services located in the downtown area of Prince George has recently been completed. The report provides recommendations that will improve the care that people will receive through those services.

In the process of the review, extensive information was gathered from Northern Health staff and physicians, service provider organizations, the City of Prince George, downtown businesses owners and other key stakeholders. Guidance was provided throughout the review by an external advisory group made up of the City, RCMP, BC Housing, Downtown Prince George, the First Nations Health Authority, and others.

“This review has shown the need for wrap-around health care and community services that meet the unique needs of the downtown Prince George community,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix. “Addressing health, housing, safety and other social determinants together can significantly shift vulnerable patients’ health and wellness, and support them in taking more positive steps.”

The final report with results and recommendations from the review is now complete and available here.

The purpose of the review was to take a comprehensive look at the health services in the downtown core that Northern Health either provides or contracts with other non-profits to provide. While Northern Health delivers some services, there are a number of non-profit organizations that are wholly or partially funded by Northern Health and who are best organized to meet the needs of the complex population served, many of whom have mental health and/or substance use issues and live on or near the streets.

“We know that people struggling with mental health and addictions issues often need wrap-around services to access support throughout every stage of recovery,” said Judy Darcy, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This review by Northern Health and partners in the Prince George community supports the work we are doing throughout B.C. to create opportunities for healing and care for our most vulnerable and build a better mental health and addictions system for those that desperately need it.”

Integrating health services and making them more accessible is the overarching recommendation of the review. Key findings relate to improving coordination and delivery of health services in the downtown, supporting those services with specialized mental health and substance use services, as well as addressing shortages that exist in areas such as housing. Essentially, this proposes a ‘one-stop-shop’ for residents requiring a range of health services and supports, that may also include housing.

"The City was pleased to participate in this review and we appreciate the leadership role that Northern Health has played," says Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall. "The findings confirm that it is only by working together that we'll address the complex needs facing the downtown in order to make it healthy and safe for everyone."

The external stakeholder group supports the overarching principle and direction, and this will include a mandate for creating, in partnership, a new space for those services to be delivered in a comprehensive manner.

“Housing is an issue in many communities and for many of the people accessing downtown health services,” said Malachy Tohill, Regional Director for BC Housing. “Working together with Northern Health and the City of Prince George on a vision for an integrated housing and health services model is going to make a difference for many people.”

A letter of commitment has been developed by the parties to bring this model forward and planning is underway. More details on the implementation of the recommendations will be released as they are developed.

“We are glad that Northern Health has led this review and included us in the process,” said Eoin Foley, President of Downtown Prince George. “We are optimistic we have turned a corner, and while the solution won’t happen tomorrow, we are on a path that I hope will meet everyone’s needs.”

In addition to the overarching principle of an integrated and accessible service model, other recommendations include:

  • Outreach functions / transportation to connect with people where they are;
  • Coordinating care between all service providers – eliminating overlap where possible while recognizing that multiple organizations are still needed;
  • Primary care for the unattached – through a coordinated and integrated service working to attach people to a primary care physician/practice/home;
  • Assess and improve primary care after-hours access;
  • Develop care plans that can help manage longitudinal health care issues while managing episodic interventions;
  • Develop stronger ties to organizations with community programs that already exist as additional supports.

“We recognize that a comprehensive review of the issues surrounding health services downtown was needed,” said Penny Anguish, Chief Operating Officer for Northern Health. “By working with all the people who have an interest in this we believe we are on the road to a solution that can meet everyone’s needs.”