Centre for Excellence in Addictions/ Substance Dependence and Related Harms
Even before helping fund the SALOME project, the InnerChange Foundation (ICF) has championed new and better approaches to treating people with chronic addictions. In 2007, ICF began critical advocacy work, and took a leadership role in developing a proposal for a Centre for Excellence in Addiction and Mental Health. The goal behind this effort: to address critical gaps within the BC healthcare system for the most difficult to treat chronic substance users in the province. The hope was to provide accessible care for the most difficult to treat multi-morbid substance users in BC through cooperation with health authorities and treatment providers or innovative own services in the area of transition between research and practice. The Centre would create a critical base for health care professional and service provider education, training, and networking, in the areas of addiction and concurrent disorders. It would also provide the infrastructure to support clinical research of innovative treatment approaches.
Addictions are often causally linked to severe mental illness, creating treatment issues of varying levels of complexity and severity. In BC, intravenous drug users are at high risk for contracting life-threatening diseases like HIV, endocarditis, and Hepatitis C. If BC is truly to address the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemic in the province, significant treatment improvements are needed for people with addictions and concurrent disorders. From 2007 to 2014 ICF worked on refining this proposal, which was eventually renamed. Efforts included convening a major gathering of experts in 2011, facilitated by then-UBC President Stephen Toope, and attended by a range of agencies and groups. In addition, the proposal was informed by 57 consultations with representatives from: care providing agencies and departments; non-profit organizations; legal/ criminal justice-related agencies such as the Vancouver Police Department, Community Court, and Community Corrections; and researchers from the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Victoria.
Through its work, ICF championed improved treatment for people with concurrent addictions and mental illnesses, recognizing that Canada’s health care (and education) systems have tended to separate the two illnesses. This separation has existed along several dimensions: how care provision is structured, treatment goals and philosophies, and the qualifications of the practitioners providing the treatment. ICF’s leadership efforts required a substantial investment of tireless staff and volunteer time, energy, and political capital. ICF representatives led an inter-agency Task Group that met monthly or more to work through needs for, and concerns with, approaches to providing concurrent treatment services. They also held numerous meetings with elected officials and senior staff at the Ministry of Health, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, and St. Paul’s Hospital.
The proposal called for concerted efforts to enhance access to care for vulnerable populations, particularly those living in British Columbia’s inner cities, and for Indigenous populations. The final stage proposal in 2014 included clinical treatment for clients, from a concurrent disorders perspective, as well as research, teaching and training.
In 2014 the BC Ministry of Health eventually provided funding for a Network for Excellence in Substance Dependence and Related Harms, based at the St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. This network integrates medical education, scientific research and clinical care to reduce the health and social harms of untreated addiction. This network not have been possible without the extensive advocacy work and collaborative relationships built through the seven year process led by the InnerChange Foundation. addressing related health issues like mental illness and communicable diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV. In addition, this network has been linked to a new B.C. addiction medicine diploma program to improve clinical addiction care as well as the establishment of a rapid-access addiction medicine program. As part of this program, it provides for clinical trials of new treatment approaches, such as the use of Vivitrol, a monthly injection to block the effects of alcohol or heroin. And very recently, the Ministry of Health provided an additional $5 million in funding to the network, to enable it to expand its work. More Info Here