Fraser Health has just announced it will be creating a new Mental Health and Substance Use Urgent Care Response Centre in Surrey.
It will be a “welcoming, therapeutic environment” located on the Surrey Memorial Hospital campus, according to a release.
The health authority says the centre will “streamline access to mental health and substance use services and create clear pathways to care, including community appointments, short-stay community residential stabilization and hospital services, and substance use treatment.”
Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Mental Health and Substance Use Zone saw more than 11,000 visits in 2016/17, which is a 16 per cent increase over the previous year.
Up to 75 percent of these patients could be better served in the new centre, according to Fraser Health, leaving the Zone available for the most acute individuals.
Planning is already underway for the new centre with plans for it to open in summer 2019 next to the hospital, across from the Creekside Withdrawal Management Centre on 94A Avenue.
“We are committed to reshaping the way that mental health services are delivered in every region across the province,” said Judy Darcy, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions. “Making it easier for people who are struggling with urgent mental health or substance use issues to access services in one place means they can get the support they need faster and start their healing journey sooner.”
Surrey Councillor Vera LeFranc said “she almost cried” when she heard the “long overdue” news.
“I was thrilled,” she told the Now-Leader. “For so long this extremely vulnerable population in Surrey has been under-served, with a patchwork of solutions that were often hard to navigate. I applaud Fraser Health for mobilizing so quickly once resources were made available by the new government.”
LeFranc said “this is the first time in years we are seeing a real commitment, supported by funding, to address this health care crisis.”
Michael Musgrove, who is executive director of Surrey Urban Mission Society just blocks away from Surrey’s 135A Street, said the project is “truly amazing.”
“Combined with an increase in housing, having mental health and addictions services at this level is a massive step forward,” he told the Now-Leader. “We have been living in survival mode with long wait lists for detox and treatment. With SafePoint, naloxone and other harm reduction strategies, we have developed ways to help people survive, but long for resources that will help people thrive.”
Fraser Health says the centre will target people who need urgent care, but not hospitalization, eliminating the need for them to go to an emergency department.
People can access the centre directly themselves, by referral from their family physician or if they are brought in by police or other first responders.
Once built, Fraser Health says the new Surrey centre will provide “rapid access” to care by increasing access to psychiatrists, expanding community assessments to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, as well as reducing wait times through same-day appointments.
It will also provide psychiatric assessments, in addition to crisis stabilization and support.
The health authority says substance use clinicians working expanded hours will support people presenting with addictions, including accessing “rapid induction” to opioid agonist treatment, such as methadone and suboxone.
“With this new centre, people needing mental health care or support with substance use will have one access point to professionals who are specially trained to treat their needs and able to connect them to a host of services,” said Dr. Anson Koo, Regional Department Head and Program Medical Director for Mental Health and Substance Use at Fraser Health. “The service will also better support community physicians and first responders with real-time consultation when people are in crisis.”
Fraser Health says in addition to in-person assessments, the specialists at the centre will use technology to provide advice to community physicians and first responders as required, allowing care to begin more quickly and sometimes managing a person’s care needs in the community, making a trip to a hospital unnecessary.
The team at the Surrey centre will be multidisciplinary, made up of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, substance use clinicians, nurses, social workers, clinical counsellors, mental health care workers, and occupational therapists.
According to a release, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions is working with partners on a variety of actions, as part of the new provincial Overdose Emergency Response Centre. Initiatives in the plan include increasing access to naloxone and opioid addiction treatments such as suboxone, methadone and injectable hydromorphone; opening additional supervised consumption and overdose prevention sites; expanding access to drug checking services; and proactively identifying and supporting people at risk of overdose into treatment.