Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are pictured in this June 20, 2012 photo. Pandemic exacerbates opioid crisis, as overdoses rise and services fade. The COVID-19 crisis has overshadowed an equally dark pandemic of opioid overdoses, which have risen sharply since March as the border closure and limited access to services raise fatal risks for drug users. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Interior Health expands substance use treatment with new teams

The integrated treatment teams are based throughout the southern Interior

Five locations in Interior Health will be offering a new option for those seeking substance use treatment, launching new “integrated treatment teams.”

The new teams will be based in Penticton, West Kelowna, Kamloops, Cranbrook and the Enderby/Salmon Arm areas.

Members of the teams were hired and trained over the winter and are now ready to see clients, the health authority said in a release.

“Everyone’s experience of addiction is unique, and their path to wellness is unique, as well,” said Susan Brown, IH president and CEO, adding the foundation of the new teams is to meet people’s needs on their schedule, working towards personalized treatment goals.

The model is designed to be as flexible as possible to accommodate those who are unable to seek help through traditional inpatient/outpatient treatment programs, whether due to work, child-care demands or lack of transportation, among other reasons.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson noted stigma drives many to use alone and “that isolation has been disastrous” when coupled with the pandemic and the current opioid crisis.

In response, the integrated treatment teams will be confidential and discreet in nature to reduce feelings of shame and blame people may experience around substance use, said the press release. Stigma remains a major barrier in preventing people who use drugs from seeking treatment.

Members of the teams also use virtual platforms, such as videoconferencing, phone and email to provide flexibility in treatment that is evidence-based, said the health authority.

Mental health and substance use services for people throughout the Interior continue to develop. IH noted new treatment beds are coming this spring to serve youth throughout the region who are experiencing substance use issues. In addition, access to opioid agonist treatment is expanding as the first cohort of IH’s nurse prescribers for Suboxone have completed training. The launch of the 310-MHSU phone number also expands access to community mental health, according to the press release.

For more information about integrated treatment teams and other mental health and substance use services with IH, visit www.interiorhealth.ca.



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