Burnaby Division develops new pathways for mental health care

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, mental health care heads into what is arguably its most challenging season. But education on community resources and a more collaborative approach to care can make all the difference, at least according to the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. Their Shared Care project, “Supporting a Patient-Centered Approach to Mental Health Care,” seeks to do just that—integrate community-level supports into Burnaby’s mental health strategy.

Starting in 2021, the initiative quickly evolved into a fully-funded Shared Care project. The team began by surveying the community to understand the mental health care landscape in Burnaby. Having surveyed 52 medical providers and 343 community members, the results showed only 24% of providers reported being satisfied with the provision of mental health care in Burnaby, and less than half reported being aware of existing public/private mental health supports.

On the patient side, only half of all respondents reported being attached to a family doctor. Significantly, 75% of community members indicated they were currently experiencing mental health issues, or they had in the past. Only 35% reported being satisfied with existing Burnaby mental health supports.

“This Shared Care project has really highlighted the need for improved mental health resources for Burnaby,” explains Dr Lingsa Jia, psychiatrist and specialist lead for the project. “Collaboration between physicians, allied health, and community organizations is necessary to address the complex psychosocial factors that contribute to the mental health challenges experienced by Burnaby residents.”

In line with Dr Jia’s thinking, the project involved family physicians, specialists, health authority staff, and community representatives to develop a key tool to begin addressing these problems: the Mental Health Community Connectors (MHCC) training. This resource aims to better equip frontline community providers to guide patients experiencing mental health concerns through the medical and social supports available to them. The team hopes the MHCC training will help them gain a better understanding of the role of medical and social sectors supporting mental health and the social factors influencing them.

Although it is currently being piloted with community providers, led by allied health workers, the team hopes to develop an improved and condensed version of the training that can be shared to the broader community and to other types of providers such as psychiatric nurses and medical office assistants.

The project hopes their efforts will ultimately result in improved integration of medical and social supports for the support of mental health concerns and, through this, an increase in the level of confidence among medical and community providers in directing patients and clients to appropriate supports within the City of Burnaby.

To learn more about this initiative, email sharedcare@burnabydivision.ca.

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