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Best-in-class mental health and substance use care coming to the new Red Fish Healing Centre

This year, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services unveiled a new evidence-based model of care for the Red Fish Healing Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, which will replace the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction in late 2021.
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The new 105-bed facility will treat clients living with the most severe and complex concurrent disorders in the province where clients are dealing with mental health issues and substance use simultaneously.

The new model of care, or approach to all how treatment and health care services will be delivered at the facility, is the first of its kind in North America — and it’s just the beginning of a fundamental shift in the way care is delivered to British Columbians with mental illness and addiction. It will include, among other things, advanced virtual health capabilities, an enhanced care unit for patients with complex needs, and unique care pathways that align with three primary clusters of mental illnesses in clients with concurrent disorders: psychotic disorders, mood disorders, and cognitive impairment. The model has been designed with the specific needs of patients in mind and allows for a highly personalized approach.

“Our patients are among the most serious and complex in the province. Providing high quality, evidence-based mental health and substance use care is critical to improving outcomes, and yet there has been a dearth of research in this area,” said Lynn Pelletier, the vice-president of BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, which oversees the new centre. “We’ve been working to change that in our services for years. This new care model truly raises the bar, ensuring that every element of the care we provide is rooted in the latest research evidence and aligns with our strategic direction, PHSA’s service plan and government priorities outlined in the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions’ mental health strategy, A Pathway to Hope.”

Patient-centred care and virtual tools to play key roles at Red Fish

In addition to aligning with the PHSA and the Ministry’s strategies, the Red Fish Healing Centre’s care model incorporates stakeholder feedback. It was created in partnership with regional health authority representatives, the First Nations Health Authority, health care professionals, physicians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists, as well as patients and families, something that is especially important in health care for people with mental health and substance use disorders.

“Placing our clients and their loved ones at the centre of care is a key element of a state-of-the-art, evidence-based model.”

“Placing our clients and their loved ones at the centre of care is a key element of a state-of-the-art, evidence-based model,” said Kathryn Embacher, the senior director of patient care services at the Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction and the Heartwood Centre for Women. “We couldn’t determine how best to meet their needs without involving them.”

Virtual care also plays a key role in the new care model. 

“Red Fish will be situated in Coquitlam, but we’ll be able to reach far beyond that to provide services, education and consultation support across the province using virtual health tools,” said Dr. Nick Mathew, the medical director at Burnaby Centre and Heartwood. “We’re incredibly excited about this new way forward for concurrent disorders treatment. Breaking new ground in care is just the beginning. This model and the new building are going to help us have a truly provincial footprint.” The need for virtual health capabilities has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the new technologies at Red Fish will expand capacity and possibility for remote patient care.

State-of-the-art design to help patients on their healing journey

Purpose-built design features in the new facility that will help facilitate the new model of care include the following:

  • Private bedrooms for each client to ensure they feel comfortable and safe
  • State-of-the-art lighting systems that will allow the indoor light to mimic natural daylight, which will help clients sleep better and reduce the need for sleep medication
  • Shared spaces for art, music and recreation therapy
  • Beautiful outdoor space, including therapeutic and medicine gardens
  • A therapeutic kitchen that will help clients learn life skills, such as preparing meals 
  • Furniture, fixtures, textures and colours that will boost comfort and safety by providing a calm, healing environment
  • Exam rooms, counselling rooms, admission areas and other spaces that will have two ways of entering and leaving, helping clients who have experienced trauma to feel safe
  • A large, virtually enabled multi-purpose room that can be used for community engagement and education
  • State-of-the-art technology that will allow clinicians and leaders to connect with patients and providers across the province

New enhanced care unit to fill a vital gap in provincial mental health system

Other highlights of the new care model include a 15-bed enhanced care unit, or ECU, designed to meet the needs of very complex patients who are difficult to treat and manage in other health care settings due to aggressive tendencies and other challenges. The new ECU will allow them to be assessed and stabilized in a safe, secure, and comfortable unit.

“The ECU fills a vital gap in the system for our population,” said Embacher. “Right now, there is no other unit in B.C. designed for people who need help managing aggression or behaviour issues in addition to treatment for their mental illness and substance use challenges. Often, they fall through the cracks and end up homeless, or in and out of the criminal justice system and hospital emergency departments, which don’t offer the comprehensive treatment they need.”

"This care model is a catalyst for change."

“This care model is a catalyst for change,” said Dr. Vijay Seethapathy, the chief medical officer for BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services. “We’ve started with Red Fish and in the coming year, we’ll be reviewing all of our clinical care models, incorporating the most current evidence and research, and building capacity for other care providers. As a provincial service, it’s up to us to lead the way.”

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