“Navigating health care can be very overwhelming,” said Jill Pascoe, director of mental health and substance use services for Interior Health. (MCG photo)

“Navigating health care can be very overwhelming,” said Jill Pascoe, director of mental health and substance use services for Interior Health. (MCG photo)

Princeton gets improved mental health and substance use services

Interior Health hires more workers to meet demand

Princeton and area residents have greater access to addiction and mental health services following the creation of new positions in the community.

Interior Health (IH) says the authority recently added a nurse prescriber, one casual counsellor, an outreach/case manager and a substance use/rural outreach worker to its local staff. “Clinical staffing in Princeton used to be one nurse, one counsellor and one life skills worker,” stated IH in a news release.

Counsellors and the nurse prescriber also serve Keremeos.

IH states the nurse prescriber has “a mental health background with additional specialized training around Opioid Against Treatment (OAT).

“The nurse works with local Mental Health and Substance Use (MHSU) services and a local physician to provide treatment with Opioid Use Disorder.”

The Outreach/Case Manager works three days a week and “provides outreach to clients who are not treatment/counselling ready.

This is especially important for people living in rural communities who many have limited transportation and resources available to them.

“This outreach position is very client centred and can meet the client where they are clinically with a trauma informed practice,” said IH.

Wait times for services vary.

In response to questions from the Spotlight, IH’s media department provided details in a series of emails.

There is no wait time for clients to access the service from the mental health nurse, substance use outreach worker and life skills worker.

For counselling services, high-risk clients are seen immediately and clients who are assessed as moderate risk are on a wait-list which is approximately four months.

To access the substance use/nurse prescriber service, it takes one to two business days to begin treatment.

Anyone can call 310-MHSU (6478) to reach their local mental health and substance use services. People can also be referred by their family doctor or through the hospital.

Jill Pascoe is the director of clinical services for mental health and substance use across the region, supervising approximately 280 professionals.

“Navigating health care can be very overwhelming. We are always trying to figure out how to make it more streamlined and more user-friendly for people who are accessing services,” Pascoe said in an interview. “Success to me is a client (making progress) with their goals, helping them to do that and walking with them to do that and achieving the level of health that they are looking for.”

Pascoe said there is no easy way to track the number of people who access in-patient treatment for substance use, for example in a rehabilitation facility.

There are several treatment facilities where care may be funded by Interior Health. Closest to Princeton, there is one in Penticton and another in Merritt.

They offer various services for different needs, and have different means of referrals.

Reinforcements of Princeton’s mental health and addiction resources are not related to the recent decriminalization of small amounts of hard drugs, IH says, however the authority supports the move.

IH says the move to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs is a step to end the shame and stigma that prevents people with substance-use challenges from reaching out for life-saving help.

“This exemption will help reduce the stigma around substance use that leads people to use alone and will help connect people to the health and social supports they need. The intent is to divert people away from the criminal justice system and toward the health and social services they need.”

Related: B.C. drug advocates cautiously optimistic about decriminalization

Related: Mom calls for openness around mental health after daughter found dead in Merritt

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

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