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People who need urgent mental health and addictions care in the growing community of Surrey can now be referred to a central location for help.

The Surrey Mental Health and Substance Use Urgent Care Response Centre – the first of its kind in the province – will start supporting patients this month. It will be a new resource for community care providers to quickly connect people with speciality services and will divert patients from emergency departments to a more therapeutic environment.

“When you or a loved one needs urgent support for a mental health or substance use challenge, the last thing you want to hear is take a number,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This centre will provide easy-to-access services where people ask for help once and get help fast, all in one welcoming place.”

The centre is an integral part of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s recently launched roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better and more accessible for people in British Columbia.

With a welcoming, patient-centered and culturally appropriate environment, care providers at the centre will focus on managing a person’s urgent needs. Patients, who are referred by community care providers or diverted from emergency departments, will work with staff to identify their needs and build on coping skills and resilience while creating a treatment plan. Patients will be connected to the most appropriate services to provide them with ongoing care and support moving forward. The centre will also provide support to people from the surrounding communities of Delta, Langley and White Rock when they require urgent support on evenings and weekends.

The new centre will make it easier for community care providers to quickly connect patients with mental health and substance use specialty services and will offer same-day appointments to clients to help them stabilize, to determine what services will best meet their needs, and then to connect them with those services. Ensuring everyone feels comfortable when accessing care is essential. Patients will be cared for by staff who are trained in culturally appropriate delivery of health care, and language interpreting services will be available.

“We consulted with more than 20 different groups, including people with lived experience, to ensure the centre meets their unique needs,” said Dr. Victoria Lee, president and CEO for Fraser Health. “From how our waiting room is laid out to culturally sensitive healing ceremonies, their recommendations are woven throughout this centre.”

The centre has a number of special features as a result of stakeholder consultations, including:

* nature-inspired interior design, with private spaces for patients and their families while they wait to receive care;

* a group room available for healing circles, smudging ceremonies and drumming; and

* laundry and shower services, as well as light snacks available on-site, supporting patients with basic comfort needs to help them stabilize.

“We know that mental health plays a vital role in our overall well-being, and it’s important that people are able to access all types of health care when they need it,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This unique centre is transforming the way these supports are provided and it is going to improve the health and lives of thousands of British Columbians through its team-based care approach.”

Patients will be supported by 84 staff and physicians, including clinical counsellors and social workers, a substance-use services access team, psychiatrists, mental health care workers, nurses, homeless outreach workers and a pharmacist.

Community health care providers, such as family physicians and nurse practitioners, will use Telehealth to access mental health and substance use care expertise in real-time for clients in their own offices. Care providers can use these virtual support appointments to ask questions and help ease patient anxiety by showing what they can expect during their appointment at the centre.

Located in the Charles Barham Pavilion on the Surrey Memorial Hospital campus, the Surrey Mental Health and Substance Use Urgent Care Response Centre is in close proximity to the emergency department, public transit and patient parking.

The centre is opening in a phased approach starting July 24, 2019, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Starting Aug. 7, 2019, the centre will be fully operational and open 16 hours a day, seven days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The project came in at $5 million, with $38,000 donated by the Surrey Hospital Foundation for renovations and technology enhancements. Once fully operational, operating costs will be $8.9 million annually.