A Mental Health Services Gaps Analysis recently conducted for the South and Central Cariboo has identified some significant shortfalls.
Researcher Kimberly Vance-Lundsbye conducted the study with BC Healthy Communities grant obtained by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD).
She presented her report to residents and stakeholders in 100 Mile House, Feb. 19.
Priority gaps were identified as ongoing wait lists for specialized care, cultural competency of service providers, and local geography (isolation and a lack of specialized care).
The survey questions were developed by a committee of stakeholders that met previously in Lac la Hache.
They looked at issues deemed to be important when looking at mental health services currently available in the area, how they are intended to work, how they actually work, and the roadblocks.
Others questions asked about the experiences of those who have sought help, where there were gaps, and how to work together to increase the enrolment of vulnerable people in Healthy Living initiatives.
Questions were posed to area stakeholders regarding where they see gaps, which 52 respondents completed.
Some 54 per cent said they had too many clients for the available services capacity.
A separate survey to gauge gaps in mental health services delivery was made available to interested members of the public, and 33 people replied. Some 69 per cent of respondents felt the care they or their loved ones received for mental health services was poor to fair.
Vance-Lundsbye noted long wait times to see a professional was a major theme and there two people still waiting (to see a psychiatrist and a counsellor, respectively) after six months.
Referrals often expire after specialist appointments are cancelled or missed – even if it is the practitioner who didn’t make it – sending clients back to a doctor or emergency room for rescheduling, she noted.
The geographical impacts that cause isolation of people with mental health issues and a lack of local specialized care also leave clients/patients travelling and/or waiting for help.
While the surveys show a high rate of referrals to other agencies, strategies toward better continuity of care suggest this interagency collaboration also offers services to clients on wait lists for specialized care.
She said most of the areas listed as strengths were initiatives that promote healthy living.
“So if that what it is working, and only 13 per cent of our providers feel they are often being utilized … it’s just something to look at.”
Another 64 per cent of public respondents reported they or their loved ones needed mental health supports or services they could not access.
Vance-Lundsbye noted she also found evidence that cultural competency needs to be addressed in this region, particular where language barriers exist.