The Need for Short, Medium and Long-Term Systems of Mental Health Care

GS Thandi, MSW RSW

Typically, when feeling unwell physically, one can visit their doctor, a walk-in clinic or the hospital and have their issue tended to. Our healthcare system is set up well in this regard – while not perfect (waits, faster services for those who can afford private care) this model of someone being sick or injured and having resources they can readily access, works well: obtain medical treatment as and when needed, follow up as and when needed. If the need is more specialized, the doctor can refer to a specialist. Compared to other systems around the world, it is exemplary.

That same model exists for mental/emotional health and well-being: short-term immediate support and some short-term follow-up.

Examples of publicly funded immediate support include: crisis lines, ER at the hospital and services such as Fraser Health’s Urgent Care and Response Centre, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Access and Assessment Centre and MCFD’s Child and Youth Walk-in Mental Health.

Publicly funded short-term follow-up mental health and wellness services are intended to provide a limited number of sessions, with a limited focus (i.e. addictions, mental health, victims of violence, K-12 students, etc.) based on parameters set out by who funds the program. Examples of publicly funded short-term mental health follow-up services include: Health Authority Addictions and Mental Health services, MCFD Child and Youth Mental Health, School Counsellors and non-profits funded by MCFD, Health Authorities (the two largest funders of publicly funded mental health).

Longer-term supports are typically beyond the scope of publicly funded systems – only available through private therapists, either through a patient-pay or insurer pay system. Private insurers also tend to prefer short-term services as they are cost effective. The above described immediate and short-term publicly funded services model can work well for anyone needing immediate and short-term mental health care but these systems are not set up for medium and longer-term support and healing.

Moving Forward Family Services is able to provide short, medium and long-term therapy. While receiving some public funding, the vast majority of our services operates on philanthropic support, and thus we are able to operate to address not just the short term needs of clients, but also their medium and longer-term needs.

This public/private (philanthropy) model may not address all mental health and other social-emotional health issues, but it can be one way to address gaps (lack of affordable, accessible medium and long-term support) that exist within current models and contributes to our vision towards healthy, healing communities.

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