“There are no hopeless people, only hopeless methods.”
Those opening words from Indigenous elder Gerry Oleman, a member of the St’at’imc Nation from Tsal’alh (Shalalth B.C.), set the stage for the 2022 BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services (BCMHSUS) Concurrent Disorders Conference.
The conference, entitled Access, Quality, and Capacity, brought together 1,600 people from around the world to learn about concurrent disorders and other issues related to mental health and substance use (MHSU), and to articulate a vision to improve B.C.’s MHSU system of care over the next five-to-ten years.
“I am very grateful to learn from this extraordinary group of speakers and panellist and to hear your ideas to improve care in British Columbia,” said B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Sheila Malcolmson, in her opening remarks. “For too long treatment and recovery services were neglected in British Columbia, and this is especially true for people with concurrent disorders. Our government is deeply committed to enhancing the treatment and recovery system. People and their families deserve options, and the most marginalized need access to dignified care that matches their needs.”
Registrants tuned in from as far away as the United Kingdom, Rwanda and Japan to take part in the conference. If you couldn’t make the conference or would like to re-watch a session, recordings are available online
“Mental disorders are common, but the quality of care is not the same compared to the care provided for physical health conditions,” said BCMHSUS Chief Medical Officer and lead conference organizer Dr. Vijay Seethapathy.
“There is a real opportunity to improve access, to enhance the capacity of our health care system, and to provide the best quality care, the first time and for as long as needed.”
The conference agenda included a range of keynote addresses, discussion sessions and lightning talks. Topics included:
- The use of virtual tools in New Zealand in the provision of MHSU care
- The role of Knowledge Translation and Exchange (KTE) as a mechanism to solve complex problems
- Motivational interviewing
- Indigenous navigators in the correctional system.
The conference ended with an hour-long panel discussion. PHSA Board Chair Tim Manning moderated the talk and said the goal was to identify gaps in the current system of care, and to describe opportunities to improve in the future.
"From an oversight perspective, we know that people are the key driver of everything in health care," said Manning.
"Growing the capability of our employees by ensuring they can develop in their roles through training is very important. We also want to see and understand where the gaps are in our system. Part of that is the need to work with colleges so we have the right number of people coming from university to fill these gaps. From a human resources perspective, we are fragmented and need to be much more refined and aligned."
Panellist Dr. Matthew Chow, a child and youth psychiatrist and Mental Health Medical Director with TELUS Health, spoke about the importance of focussing on things like housing, education, anti-racism and Indigenous reconciliation in order to elevate our collective mental health. “This will help prevent the onset of mental health disorders I see every day in my clinical practice.
We should make sure every British Columbian at least once in their lifetime has access to a full course of publicly-funded psychotherapy,” said Dr. Chow, noting the recommendation is “concrete and achievable.”
Keynote speaker and panellist Andrew Slater, CEO New Zealand Telehealth Services, said he sees an opportunity in the resilience many people have built during the last two years of the pandemic.
“How can we use the pandemic and the resilience people have built to get through it, and how can we leverage it as an opportunity to solve our mental health and addiction crises in the world, and use it to our advantage?”
Another panellist, Victoria Maxwell, spoke about her experiences in the system as a person with bi-polar disorder, anxiety and psychosis. “I had a lot of trouble accepting the illness, and accepting the treatment," said Maxwell. “For that reason, I feel that we really need to embed peer support workers in all aspects of the mental health system; from tip to tail, and ideally before a crisis happens. I know we have made a lot of inroads with respect to peer support, but I still feel like we have a ways to go.”