Friday, 01 December 2017 13:17

Cypress Health program supports those living with mental illness

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The Cypress Health Region provides a variety of services to individuals facing mental health challenges.


These services are organized in different programs to address a variety of needs. It includes a psychiatric rehabilitation program that provides longer term care to individuals through case management.
A presentation about this program was made at a regular meeting of the Cypress Regional Health Authority board in Swift Current, Nov. 22.
The presenters were Jennifer Hennig, the manager of the psychiatric rehabilitation program, and Mallory Unger, a community mental health nurse.
“Case management works with specifically identified clients who may require assistance regarding many areas of their day to day life,” Unger said. “We use a collaborative process of assessment, planning, facilitation, care coordination, evaluation, and advocacy for options and services to meet an individual’s and family’s comprehensive health needs.”
Cypress Health Region’s psychiatric rehabilitation team consists of four nurses with experience in acute mental health and addictions services.
“Each nurse acts as a case manager for clients referred to the program and our referrals come through a variety of agencies and clinicians,” Hennig said. “A lot of them come from the psychiatrist, other doctors, the take self referrals, other agencies that may be working with some of our clients where the need for some community support is indicated.”
Each nurse has an average case load of 40 clients. Since the start of 2017 the program has received 28 new referrals. There is no wait list for this program, because a client will immediately be assigned to a nurse.
The goal of psychiatric rehabilitation is to promote recovery and improved quality of life for individuals with chronic and persistent mental illness, as well as community integration. It includes illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar 1 disorder, chronic mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and persistent personality disorder.
“Recovery is a process, a way of life, an attitude, and a way of approaching the day’s challenges,” Unger mentioned. “Recovery is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with the limitations caused by illness. So we really are just helping people to live their best life out in the community and just another kind of supportive piece in their life.”
The four nurses will carry out various tasks in their roles as case managers. They will provide education about an illness, and they will do symptom management, relapse prevention and medication management.
They will assist clients to manage their housing and financial needs, and they will liaise with various agencies. Three of them will travel to communities outside Swift Current to provide services.
“Many of the clients that access psychiatric rehabilitation services are some of the most vulnerable and marginalized in our community,” Hennig said. “That’s why we feel it’s so important to be able to service these clients because some of them have very few other supports, a few family members, and they’ve been marginalized within their communities, mostly because there is a lack of understanding regarding who a person is in relation to their illness.”
Stigma is still an issue, and the psychiatric rehabilitation team will use opportunities to educate people about mental illness and to reduce the stigma associated with those living with mental illness.
“Case managers are always working to promote the idea that our clients live with an illness, but they are not defined by their illness,” she said. “That is not who they are, there’s so much more than that.”
The team has developed some creative strategies over the years to provide support to their clients. They have developed partnerships with community pharmacies for medication dispensing.
 “Our local pharmacies have been fabulous in Swift Current in that we can actually work together with the pharmacies to have our clients go to the pharmacy every day for their medications,” she said. “So they don’t have to worry about remembering to take it every day.”
The team has been looking at different medication programs for cost coverage, because many of their clients live on social assistance and they cannot afford the medications that might work best for them.
Housing can also be a challenge for many of their clients due to high rental rates, and the team will help them to find affordable housing options.
The psychiatric rehabilitation team has done some work to create a mentorship program as part of the broader effort to provide support to their clients.
“The mentorship program, which is relatively new, can make a referral and a mentor can be assigned to some of our clients, if that’s what’s needed,” Hennig said. “A mentor can do anything from take our clients out for coffee or maybe work with them in the home or help them with some transport options. It’s just one more additional support that we’ve been able to tap into the last year or two.”
Another recent initiative is the development of peer support and family support groups. The family support group has been taking place for a while. The group meets every third Tuesday of the month and it has become an important resource for family members of individuals who are living with mental illness.
“We’ve also been working at developing a peer support group,” Unger said. “There’s been some interest with some of our clients that they’d like to see a group that we would facilitate, but they would really have a hand in running as well, just to provide some support to one another. So we’re hoping to get that off and running for sometime this winter.”
For more information about the Cypress Health Region’s mental health and addiction services, contact the centralized intake number at 1-877-329-0005.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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