“There are a lot of reasons why someone may go to the emergency department for psychiatric care,” says Dr. Curtis Chicoine, a psychiatrist at Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatoon. “They are there because they need assistance for issues such as mood disorders, psychosis, substance abuse disorders, anxiety or even suicidal thoughts. Our rapid assessment clinic offers these individuals short-term psychiatric care after they leave emergency and are waiting for an appointment with a community-based psychiatrist.”
Dr. Curtis Chicoine has been part of the rapid assessment psychiatric clinic in Saskatoon for several years, helping bridge psychiatric services for hundreds of individuals during that time.
Dr. Chicoine is one of two psychiatrists who currently provide short-term psychiatric follow-up care through the clinic to individuals who have visited RUH emergency, received care, and were discharged back into the community. When needed, the clinic may also work in conjunction with the mental health transition team, which is composed of social workers, mental health nurses, and others to ensure those who have sought out help receive follow up care if needed.
The rapid psychiatric assessment clinic is a bridge for individuals between emergency care and longer term psychiatric care if needed. It is not only helping those on psychiatric wait lists, but also reducing emergency pressures by allowing some individuals to get the assistance they need without having to return for crisis care.
“When I started at this five and a half years ago, people were waiting up to a year for longer term psychiatric care after being referred,” says Chicoine. “That is a long time to wait. The wait time is much better now . . . we provide the follow up assessment and care that some individuals need until they are either discharged or get the appointment they have been waiting for.”
The clinic is a busy one. It saw 800 referrals last year from various emergency departments around Saskatoon. While not every referral went on to require follow up appointments, Dr. Chicoine makes sure to try to contact every individual within the week and see them within two weeks of having received the referral.
“Some cases might be quite simple and only require a few appointments, while others may require more intense attention to get them to a better place,” explains Chicoine.
He recalls one referred patient who required a few appointments after presenting at the emergency department with behavioural issues. “This person was having a lot of conflicts with other people and had ended up losing their job because of this. I was able to provide them with a diagnosis and medication that then required only one additional appointment to fine-tune. I was very pleased to hear the medication immediately began to resolve their issues and last I heard the person was back at work.”
The clinic, while initially built on best practices from throughout Canada, has evolved and continues to evolve into a unique system for Saskatchewan residents.