Integrating mental health and addictions services at Waypoint and beyond
Integrating mental health and addictions services at Waypoint and beyond
Posted on 02/25/2016

Dr. Howard BarbareeAddiction and mental illness often go hand in hand. Evidence suggests that people with a mental illness are twice as likely to have a substance use problem compared to the general population. Similarly, people with substance use problems are up to three times more likely to have a mental illness.

Because substance use disorders introduce additional complications to the treatment of mental illness, prolonging and in some cases preventing recovery, the best treatment for these illnesses is an integrated approach, where both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated at the same time, by the same team in a cohesive way.

At Waypoint’s Georgianwood Program, the region’s only speciality integrated residential concurrent disorders program, this has been the treatment philosophy for more than a decade. But we know there is significant demand for this type of treatment, not only in other hospital programs, but also across the region and more broadly in the mental health care sector.

With this in mind, Waypoint set out to develop the Integrated Concurrent Disorders Service with funding from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care as well as the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund, an initiative providing grants to organizations helping to improve access to mental health services from coast to coast.

Under the leadership of senior researcher Dr. Shari McKee, the Waypoint Research Institute is developing a program to extend beyond the walls of a hospital. The goal is greater access to evidence-based concurrent disorders treatment not only for Waypoint patients across the hospital, but also for people in our region and around the province, filling a gap in the current mental health care system.

One of the more unique elements of the program is the ability for it to be customized for different mental health care programs and providers. It involves building capacity for initial identification, assessment, preliminary treatment and outcome evaluation. The program also provides both internal and external mental health care providers with a framework and tools to implement similar programs in other settings. The hope is it will act as a model for mental health providers globally, giving patients the skills and tools necessary to thrive independently.

In a region with some of the highest addiction rates in the province, it is exciting to be able to offer addictions treatment/concurrent disorders services to patients beyond the addictions program.

​Dr. Howard Barbaree is the Vice-President of Research and Academics at Waypoint