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B.C. improves access to supports for youth, young adults experiencing psychosis

Province of British Columbia
By Province of British Columbia
June 20th, 2024

More young people who are experiencing early signs of psychosis are benefiting from expanded supports throughout the province.

In 2021, the Province announced the expansion of the early psychosis intervention (EPI) program. B.C. now has more than 50 locations where people can get assessed and connected to care. The Province has funded the hiring of up to 100 specialists to provide care and support to young people and their families in the program.

“Experiencing symptoms of psychosis can be scary and isolating for young people and their families,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “By connecting young people to early intervention supports, we ensure people experiencing psychosis for the first time are not left alone, and feel empowered to reclaim their lives. Through this expansion, we’re providing better access, hiring more staff and providing more young people with the wraparound care they need, when they need it.”

The early psychosis intervention (EPI) program is offered to people 13 to 30 who are showing signs of first episode of psychosis. Psychosis is a serious mental-health condition that can affect a person’s perception of reality, and often involves delusions, paranoia or hallucinations. These experiences often emerge during mid-to-late teenage years. They can lead or amplify depression or anxiety and their ability to function in daily life. Providing early integrated intervention is key to providing effective care and supports to young people and their families, and can lead to faster recovery, lower risk of relapse and more stability in people’s lives. EPI teams include psychiatrists, nurses, case managers and peer support workers, so young people can get wraparound supports when they experience early symptoms of psychosis.

“I never thought when I first got sick that, years later, I’d be coming back as a worker and trying to help others who go through the same thing I went through,” said Cameron Webster, a peer support worker with the EPI program. “It feels good. I get to help people who are dealing with the same issues I did in the past by using first-hand knowledge and experience.”

In Island Health, the program has been relocated to an expanded community space that is more accessible. It brings together youth and adult programs to support care transitions, care co-ordination, team collaboration and best-practice care. New staff have been hired, increasing capacity to follow clients for a longer period post-care, and enhances community engagement and awareness. The program now has capacity to serve up to 300 clients, from the previous 200.

“Treatment works best when it starts as soon as possible, and our recent service expansion is significantly improving the care and supports we can provide to clients and their families,” said John Braun, manager, South Island EPI with Island Health Mental Health and Substance Use. “By bringing together our previous youth EPI program and our adult EPI program, we have created a seamless, integrated program which serves people in a healthy way that supports wellness, recovery and ongoing connection away from the hospitals.”

The provincewide program expansion is supported by $75 million over three years. Health authorities have opened new locations throughout B.C., relocated in new community spaces that are more welcoming and accessible, hired new staff and increased collaboration among care team members. This way, the teams now have increased capacity to take on more clients, to follow clients for a longer period, and to ensure an integrated approach when other mental-health and addiction treatment is also required.

Providing supports for people living with serious and persistent mental-health issues is an integral part of the Province’s work to expand access to mental-health and addictions care, including increasing early intervention and prevention, treatment and recovery services, supportive and complex care housing, harm reduction, and more.

Categories: GeneralHealth

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