When someone is in crisis they require quality care and fast. That’s why, in the fall of 2017, staff associated with Regina’s Mental Health Day Program sought to make improvements — to ensure patients with acute depression/anxiety symptoms don’t have to wait for those services.
“We really want to make sure the patient gets the right service at the right time,” said Julie Longo, manager of the Mental Health Inpatient Unit.
The Mental Health Day Program, previously called the Recovery Support Program, offers services to patients who’ve had a recent crisis or exaggeration of symptoms related to anxiety or depression. It provides intervention and support to patients living in the community, with the goal of assisting in the development of new strategies for managing symptoms related to anxiety and depression, coping with life stressors and reducing the related physical symptoms. Staff also determine if further community supports are required once patients complete the program to assist with maintaining their mental wellness.
To better support patient’s needs, psychologists and staff from Regina’s Mental Health Clinic, the Community Outreach and Support Team and the Mental Health Day Program changed enrolment and referral processes, modified the staffing complement and redesigned programming.
The Mental Health Day Program now has continuous enrolment and most people can begin the day after they call to book an appointment.
Previously, the wait time to get into the program averaged 23 days, which was not suitable for people in crisis. The wait time is now four days or less.
The class size, which used to accommodate as many as 18 patients, is now capped at 10; the program length has been reduced to two-weeks from four; and the number of program modules has been reduced from 24 to eight. The shorter format and continuous enrolment ensure the smaller class size does not impede anyone from enrolling almost immediately.
Patient feedback has been positive.
“The smaller group size allowed me to benefit more from the program,” said one participant. “We were able to talk about the topic with back and forth conversation and I got to learn from others. You weren’t just talking to us like in the past. There was more information being traded between all of us and we were able to practice the skills.”
Every day, Monday to Thursday, there’s an activity meant to promote mindfulness while proving to patients they can complete a task successfully on their own.
Staff and patients often practice mindfulness activities. Mindfulness helps clients focus on the present. Activities, such as meditation or even a quick walk outside, can improve one’s mood and is a key part of the Mental Health Day Program.
“Knitting, taking a 20-minute walk — these things can change your mood,” said Longo. “Meanwhile, the occupational therapist is seeing if they’re using the skills they’ve been taught during the activity. We also give them homework to practice at home. ”
The program admission criteria used to be more rigid, requiring approval from a psychiatrist at the hospital or in the community. Sometimes patients were getting referred when they weren’t exactly the right fit.
“Now we have those referrals funnelled through the Regina Mental Health Clinic and staff there look at the resources available in the community to see what best fits that particular patient. Sometimes patients are eligible for more than one service,” said Longo.
A social worker and an occupational therapist are now embedded into the health-care team. The team meets weekly to discuss patient progress and may identify if further services are required.
“We’re really focusing on the psycho-social barriers that patients are seeing, like employment issues, housing issues, sometimes people can’t afford their medications. The social workers have community experience so they know the services available and we pair them up with the individuals who may have those barriers.”
Since implementing the changes, Longo has been hearing good things.
“Wonderful staff made it very non-threatening and comfortable to attend,” said one participant. “It’s an excellent program with great people running it. I learned something every day that is helpful.”
Said another, “Thanks to all the staff. They were so kind, welcoming, informative and helpful. I am so glad I came.”