Release. Individuals living with severe mental health and substance use disorders will now have access to mental health services at home, in shelters, at drop-in centres or wherever else in the community that is most comfortable to engage.
Fraser Health today announced the implementation of an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team for Abbotsford and Mission, and a second ACT team for Surrey and North Delta. ACT, a specialized mobile treatment and support program, takes mental health support outside the walls of traditional treatment facilities to community settings that are frequented by the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach people. This is one example of Fraser Health’s client-centred approach to care and aligns with the Ministry of Health’s commitment to provide more community based services so people can stay well and avoid unnecessary use of hospitals.
“ACT teams are successful and important to individuals with severe mental health and substance use disorders. In Vancouver, ACT teams have reduced emergency department visits by 70%,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “We’ve just introduced two new teams for Kamloops and Kelowna, and now I’m glad to say Abbotsford and Mission, and Surrey and North Delta will benefit from ACT team intervention.”
Fraser Health implemented its first ACT team in Surrey in February 2012 and expanded to include New Westminster and the Tri-Cities in February 2013. Funding for the new ACT teams is provided jointly, with the Ministry of Health contributing $2 million and Fraser Health providing $2 million for a total of $4 million.
“Surrey’s first ACT team is seeing tremendous outcomes and is operating at full capacity. We are pleased to be able to expand this service, as both Abbotsford and Mission have the highest number of identified individuals who meet the criteria for ACT services in the Eastern part of the Fraser Valley. ACT teams not only have a positive impact on people’s lives, but they have also been proven to reduce the number of hospital admissions for this population,” said Andy Libbiter, Executive Director, Mental Health and Substance Use Program, Fraser Health.
The ACT model is nationally and internationally recognized for its effective results. The ACT team provides flexible, community-based support for adults with serious addictions and mental illness who have not connected with, or responded well to, traditional office-based outpatient mental health care and rehabilitation services.
Services include comprehensive assessment, treatment, rehabilitation and support activities. As part of Fraser Health’s mental health system of care, the ACT program reduces barriers through an outreach approach, extended hours of service, and a ‘housing first’ philosophy, which focuses on the idea that a safe and comfortable place to live is an essential first step to coping with mental illness and or substance use disorders.
When fully functional, ACT will have the capacity to support approximately 80 to 100 individuals in both the Abbotsford/Mission program, and the Surrey program supporting a total of 200 people.
The ACT teams will be comprised of various mental health and substance use professionals including a team coordinator, psychiatrist, social workers, registered nurses, mental health care workers, occupational therapist and peer support workers. The ACT team is intended to be mobile and deliver 75 per cent of its services in settings such as a person’s home, shelters, drop-in centres, or parks.
Today’s announcement is partially funded by the $20.25 million earmarked for health authorities in 2014/15 to invest in more local programs and supports to improve care for the severely addicted and mentally ill population. This announcement builds on significant progress on the action items outlined in the Ministry of Health’s November 2013 report for individuals with severe addiction and mental illness, with even more programs to be announced in the upcoming year.