New B.C. program aims at improving access to mental health and addictions care

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      Amid the rising number of mental health issues and addiction cases among youth and young adults in British Columbia, the provincial government has launched a new program aiming to provide better care for those suffering from mental health issues or substance abuse.

      The new program, A Pathway to Hope, is a 10-year plan that focuses on improving access to mental health and addiction care for British Columbians.

      B.C. premier John Horgan, who unveiled the plan today (June 26) in North Vancouver, said the new initiative integrates his government’s mental health and addiction strategies, adding that “for too long, little attention was paid to mental health and substance use care by the previous government.”

      Horgan added that “this is about fighting stigma. It is about extending service for people and making sure all British Columbians can live in a state of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.”

      “When it comes to substance abuse care, which is a challenge for all of us, we have been focused trying to address the scourge of a poison drug in our systems in British Columbia that has taken too many lives," Horgan said. “And we have been focusing relentlessly on trying to bring those deaths down, trying to ensure that the services are there for first-line responders to bring people back when they are on the brink of death.”

      There were more than 1,500 illicit-drug overdose deaths in B.C. in 2018.
      Travis Lupick

      “A long journey” to tackle the problem

      The new program also identifies priority actions that the government will take over the next three years, including focusing on wellness of children, youth, and young adults, as well as improving the province’s ongoing fight against the overdose crisis.

      Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy acknowledged that it will be “a long journey” to tackle mental health and addictions problems but added that the government is putting an initial “priority in transforming mental health and substance abuse care for young people”.

      “There is nothing more pressing than ensuring every young person has the supports they need to not just survive, but thrive,” Darcy told. “These longstanding problems in mental health and addictions care won’t be fixed overnight. But by starting to move from a crisis-driven system to early intervention and prevention—especially for children and youth—we can help people before their problems become more severe.”

      As part of the program, the government plans to invest in increasing people’s access to affordable counselling and support, opening more foundry centres, expanding First Nations-run treatment centres, and expanding intensive services for youth and children across the province.

      B.C. Coroners Service

      Mental health issues among students on the rise

      The new initiative is launched at a time when concerns are rising about students' mental health.

      According to the B.C. Adolescent Health Survey released last year, between 2013 and 2015, the number of students reporting depression in the province has increased by 50 percent, and the number of students reporting anxiety has jumped by 135 percent.

      In the survey, conducted by McCreary Centre Society, 17 percent of students in B.C. have reported that they had seriously considered suicide in the last year.

      Last year, more than 1,500 people in B.C. lost their lives as a result of an illicit-substance overdoses, with 87 percent between the ages of 19 and 59.

      It was the sixth year in a row that the province set a record for illicit-drug-overdose deaths, according to a report by B.C. Coroners Service.

      However, the number of fatalities as a result of illicit substance overdoses dropped 32 percent in the first quarter of 2019 in the province, the B.C. Coroners Service reported.

      Data shows that the average number of deaths as a result of substance overdose in B.C. for January, February, and March this year dropped to 89 from 132 in 2018.