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Two New Projects Poised to Improve Mental Health & Addictions Care in Ontario

Evidence-based initiatives that promote integrated care will soon spread across the province

TORONTO, June 10, 2015 /CNW/ - People with depression, alcohol abuse and opioid addiction often receive care that is fragmented. They find themselves in and out of treatment centres with no coordinated plan for how to get better. Even worse, sometimes these individuals never receive the mental health and addictions care they need.

To help people with addictions and/or mental illness, the Adopting Research to Improve Care (ARTIC) program announced today it is funding two projects that deliver effective mental health and addictions care in the most appropriate care setting. ARTIC was originally developed by the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario (CAHO) to bring research evidence into practice. Recently, CAHO and Health Quality Ontario (HQO) partnered to maximize the potential impact of the ARTIC program and spread it beyond the academic hospital sector.

"All Ontarians have been touched in some way by mental health or addictions challenges, either through personal experience or that of a loved one," says Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. "A key part of our Patients First: Action Plan for Health Care is to expand mental health and addictions services by supporting programs like ARTIC. By fostering the spread of evidence-based care, we're better able to deliver faster access to the right care for mental health and addictions."

In late 2014, ARTIC sent out a call for proposals with the objective of spreading research evidence that had been proven and tested in at least one site and that was ready to be implemented in multiple organizations or sectors. The theme of this call for proposals was integration of care. The two submissions that most exemplified this theme were the Depression and Alcoholism - Validation of an Integrated Care Initiative (DA VINCI) and the Mentorship, Education, and Training in Addictions: Primary care-Hospital Integration (META:PHI).

The DA VINCI and META:PHI projects are supported by research evidence and - having demonstrated their ability to improve patient experiences and outcomes in a few sites - are now ready to be implemented in other sites across Ontario:

  • The goal of DA VINCI is to ensure patients with both a major depressive disorder (MDD) and alcohol dependence (AD) have access to person-centered, evidence-based integrated care. The traditional health care approach to MDD and AD is to treat them separately, often by different health care providers at different periods of time. This is despite the fact that clinical evidence suggests that treating both conditions simultaneously and in a coordinated fashion leads to better outcomes. DA VINCI is currently situated at the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto and through ARTIC funding will soon spread to seven other sites in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and North Bay.
  • META:PHI integrates the alcohol or opioid addiction treatment provided by emergency department staff, addiction physicians, and primary care providers. Opioid and alcohol withdrawal patients are rarely referred to ongoing treatment upon discharge from an Emergency Department. Those who are referred often must wait months to begin a treatment program and are not linked to supports once they complete it. Furthermore, many primary care providers have indicated that they do not feel comfortable or experienced enough in managing addictions in their patients. The goal of META:PHI is to refer patients who have presented to the emergency department with alcohol- or opioid-related conditions to their primary care provider (upon discharge) who will provide them with effective evidence-based withdrawal treatment (supported by an addiction specialist), counselling, and connections to community treatment programs. META:PHI is currently operational in three Toronto hospitals – Women's College Hospital, St. Joseph's Health Centre, and St. Michael's Hospital – and through ARTIC funding will soon be rolled out at seven more sites in Ottawa, Sudbury, London, Owen Sound, Sarnia, St. Catharines, and Newmarket.

"DA VINCI and META:PHI are innovative and most importantly, effective," says Karen Michell, Executive Director of CAHO. "The ARTIC program was founded to facilitate the spread and implementation of research evidence, and I am pleased that these evidence-based projects, which do much to integrate mental health and addictions care in Ontario, will soon be helping hundreds of people in need."

The spread of these programs is timely, since mental illness, alcohol abuse, and opioid addiction are on the rise in Canada. In Ontario alone, the burden of mental illness and addictions is more than 1.5 times that of all cancers, and more than seven times that of all infectious diseases.1 In fact, the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at $51 billion per year and mental health claims are now the fastest growing category of disability costs.2 Alcohol abuse accounts for approximately 8% of all deaths and 7% of all hospital stays.3 In terms of opioid addiction, about 10 Ontarians accidentally die from prescription opioids every week.4 However, despite the frequency and prevalence of opioid and alcohol abuse, addiction and pain management education is limited in medical schools.5

"The ARTIC program and the two innovative projects that are currently being spread through it address areas of significant need and open up new possibilities for the treatment of mental health and addictions in Ontario," says Dr. Joshua Tepper, President and CEO of Health Quality Ontario (HQO). "An effective and efficient health care system is one that is rooted in evidence. Our partnership with CAHO on the ARTIC program is exciting because it will increase the rate at which successful, evidence-based initiatives are spread throughout the province, effectively bridging gaps in care and improving patient experiences and outcomes."