By, Anne McGuire, President & CEO, IWK Health Centre
Changes in the mental health program at the IWK are happening for all the right reasons.
The IWK is implementing its Mental Health Strategic Plan, and the intention of the plan is better access to better patient care through a simple formula of freeing up resources and using them where they are needed most.
The IWK has been challenged to solve a number of serious patient care access and quality of care issues within our mental health program, and solve them within the program’s existing budget.
For a number of years, we struggled with wait lists in our community clinics of 10 to 12 months. The numbers on our wait lists grew to over 1,000 young people waiting for their first appointment. We also were aware that a large percentage of our funds were used for overnight care for young people in our residential programs, when evidence was strongly indicating that overnight stays for young people — away from their families and support systems — were often an impediment to treatment rather than a positive.
We simply could not leave things as they were. We knew that by taking the resources we had and making some difficult, but evidence- and fact-based decisions, we could make a difference — bring down the wait lists and expand more care into the community where it was desperately needed.
The mental health and addictions team at the IWK developed a strategy that would systematically deal with wait lists by implementing the CAPA (Choice and Partnership Approach) patient management system out of the United Kingdom, as well as reviewing each and every one of our treatment centres to use these resources in the most effective way. Our new care model will enable the MHA program to re-invest funds in expanded community mental health services, which will bring our wait time down to a very reasonable four weeks.
Evidence shows that overnight care is not a necessary part of treatment for most young people. With no impact on patient care, we could reduce costs in two of our programs — Compass and ACT — by moving to a day treatment model for many of these youth. And, through further re-investment and redirection of resources, we could change the level of expertise within the programs so that the young people within them will have access to professional level care — from nurses, social workers, recreational therapists and others. These are the positions that are most needed — the right professionals, at the right place and at the right time.
IWK’s mental health team is committed to providing the most appropriate services to meet the needs of children, youth and families through a continuum of care, ranging from early intervention to more intensive services. As the program continues to implement its strategic plan, we will continue to see improved access to care for patients and their families.