Thursday November 21, 2019
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New Mental Health Program at NHS


mental health team

The healthcare professionals that are part of Niagara Health System’s new Wellness Recovery Integrated Comprehensive Care program.

A new program at Niagara Health is enhancing care and access to services for people with complex mental health needs.

The Wellness Recovery Integrated Comprehensive Care program helps people to fully understand their mental health needs and to identify and develop strategies to improve their mental wellness. A goal of the program is to reduce readmissions to hospital and visits to the Emergency Department for non-urgent mental health issues which typically represent between five and 10 per cent of emergency department visits annually.

“We’re trying to help people enhance their skill, their knowledge and their abilities so that they’re able to problem solve in the community, rather than going to the Emergency Department as an immediate response for help with non-urgent issues,” says Robert Cosby, Clinical Manager of Niagara Health’s Outpatient Mental Health and Addictions Program.

People referred to the program include individuals with a mental health diagnosis, such as severe depression, bipolar or schizophrenia, and people who are at high risk of readmission to a mental health inpatient unit or who frequently visit Emergency Departments.

Participants, who must be 18 years or older, are connected with a team of healthcare professionals from Niagara Health who work collaboratively with them to identify their mental health needs and to ensure they are receiving the best possible care. The healthcare team includes Registered Nurses, Social Workers, Occupational Therapists, Nurse Practitioners and a Psychiatrist.

Barb Pizzingrilli, Niagara Health System’s Director of Mental Health and Addictions, says that although it is a multi-disciplinary team approach in the program, clients will have one primary clinician that will stay with them throughout their time in the program.

In terms of how long one can expect to stay in the program is up to each individual case.  “It’s not based on a timeline,” said Pizzingrilli. “It’s based on the individual need of the client in terms of how long they are part of the program.”

Participants meet with members of the team at the hospital or in the community to receive care and create an individualized recovery plan based on their needs.

The program is “very person-centred,” says Robert.

“Participants are identifying what they need in their journey of wellness and recovery,” he says. “You have to work really closely with people to help guide them and to see that they do have the resiliency, the strength and the knowledge. With this program, we’re enhancing that.”

Participants also have access to other therapy programs at Niagara Health, and they are connected with services in the community, such as Niagara’s Crisis Outreach and Support Team and Quest Community Health Centre.

Niagara residents with mental health issues can also access Niagara’s Mental Health and Addictions Access Line which is answered 24-7 at 1-866-550-5205.

The Wellness Recovery Integrated Comprehensive Care program has permanent funding and will be ongoing. “We will continue to study and evaluate the program and modify it to improve the experiences and outcomes for our patients,” said Pizzingrilli.


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