Mental health services wait times in Smithers vary but currently they are an average of two weeks.
However, Northern Health’s local Interprofessional Team Lead Bart Newman said it isn’t uncommon.
“We have a wait list which is not terribly unusual,” he said. “Most communities have a wait list. It is a triage wait list so we can set priorities based on who is mostly acutely in need for support. If someone really needed support for their safety, if we were really concerned about them, we could see them immediately.”
Northern Health has a large team in the Bulkley Valley called the Interprofessional Team.
The Interprofessional Team and the Primary Care Services includes a combination of the following services: Case Management, Home Care Nursing, Home Support, Rehab Services, Social Worker, Palliative Care Nurse Consultants, Health Services for Community Living.
“Included in that is mental health and addictions services,” said Newman. “That is one branch of our Interprofessional Team (IPT). At the IPT mental health services we have a group of clinicians who are mostly social workers and some of them have other clinical training and provide case management for individuals who are dealing with mental health and substance use concerns. Case management would potential include some short term service solution therapy or counselling, it also involves coming up with a care plan to help that person overcome some of the difficulties relating to their mental health. We also have life skill workers. These are individuals who are given the care plan by one of our mental health clinicians or another member of the IPT, it could be a nurse or occupational therapist.”
Newman added Northern Health has a contract with a psychiatrist that works in the same office but in order to be connected to her services, you need a doctor’s referral.
Northern Health provides only some of the mental health services that exist in town.
“There is another team called mental health and substance use outreach team. They provide more on the ground service for folks who are facing multiple barriers and wouldn’t be able to come into an office for mental health care. We are the not the whole spectrum of mental health services. We have many non-profit and partner organizations, there is also youth mental health that works with folks under the age of 19. There are also a number of private clinicians that do counselling and therapy. We are part of a broader spectrum. Smithers is pretty lucky to have as many services as we do.”
But he said there is currently a wait time for services.
“There are probably cases that take longer than two weeks, and there are cases that take much shorter. On average, two weeks is an estimate,” he said. “I don’t want to trivialize it. If someone is seeking help and they are being asked to wait, I think that can feel like a really big problem to that individual and I don’t want to trivialize that. I’m not going to sit here and tell people that them having to wait for mental health services isn’t difficult. But I think we do a good job of triaging to make sure people who need the most immediate support get it.”
Newman feels confident they have the capacity to meet the needs of the community.
“There is always more space for services in any community however I think we do a fairly good job managing our wait list. It is shorter than a lot of places. It varies how long, sometimes it literally disappears, just depends on demand. As recently as January we didn’t have a wait list but we’ve had a quiet a few referrals lately so we have a short one now.”
Newman added that in an ideal world, people would get the services they are looking for as quickly as possible. “I don’t won’t to say it isn’t a problem that people have to wait sometimes but I think it is impossible to anticipate the volume of referrals.”