Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown.

OPINION: Interior Health CEO responds to why they defunded Pathways

“It’s time to stop doing things how they’ve always been done” — IH CEO Susan Brown

Addiction is a complex health condition that can devastate people, families, and communities and Interior Health is working to address these challenges as the understanding of mental illnesses and substance use disorders continues to evolve.

To step up and face addiction issues head on for people who experience mental health and substance use challenges, we need to review the status quo. In some cases, it’s time to stop doing things how they’ve always been done.

Working with community partners, Interior Health reviewed South Okanagan services and Pathways’ programs 2020. Following the questions raised publicly in the past few weeks, we have reconfirmed their input and support.

The Department of Psychiatry at Penticton Regional Hospital, as well as other physicians and clinicians in the community are clear in their support for change. They and IH’s own physicians, including Dr. Paul Carey, medical director for mental health and substance use at Interior Health, agree that the current model and services contracted through Pathways is preventing people from accessing the full range of available supports and care.

People need barrier-free access into a system that supports them. At Pathways, new client intake was limited to Tuesdays from 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. This prevents people from fast access to support when they need it. Interior Health will change that and open drop-in access to new clients five days per week.

How will this help? Youth and pregnant women who may require fast access to specialized services will benefit when they don’t have to wait until the following week for support. Bringing these services in-house will help us identify instances of self-harm that require urgent intervention and offer wider hours for someone in crisis who needs to drop-in for help.

We will improve care planning, medication support, wound care, psychosocial rehabilitation and help address primary care needs for the clients who transition to our program.

A challenge with the Pathways contract was the inability to track client progression and know whether people might be falling through the cracks. By bringing these counselling services in-house, we can follow up with people more effectively, find out what they need, and ensure people get all of the right supports and health services.

The issue is not about decades of addressing community needs one way, it is about adopting the evidence-based, client-centred approach of the future.

With new funding from the Province for mental health and addictions, we are already increasing youth treatment beds across Interior Health, adding new Integrated Treatment Teams to improve outreach services for people with addictions, training nurses and psychiatric nurses to prescribe addiction treatment medications, and so much more.

And I would be remiss not to mention the Penticton urgent and primary care centre. With the support of the Martin Street Outreach Clinic, South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice, the Penticton Indian Band, the Ookanane Friendship Centre and other local partners, this will be a game changer for supporting people with mental health and addiction challenges in the South Okanagan. An integrated in-house counselling service, combined with Interior Health’s wide range of additional programs, brings a serious challenge to the status quo – and improvement for all people in the region.

In Penticton, no services will be reduced, in fact they will be enhanced and improved. Addressing the complex health challenges of addiction requires new strategies, fresh thinking, innovation and integration across every aspect of the health sector. With each step that someone takes on their wellness journey, Interior Health will be here to support them – in Penticton, the South Okanagan, and beyond.

— By Susan Brown, President and CEO, Interior Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Town of Oliver is lobbying for funds to fix part of an irrigation system damaged by a rock slide last year that would have a huge impact on farmers and the entire region. File photo
Province to finish funding for Oliver irrigation system repairs

The irrigation system was damaged after a rockslide in 2016

The Vees are on their fourth straight win as they head into game five of Pod Season on Sunday. (Cheri Morgan Photography)
Penticton Vees keep winning streak alive with 5-3 win

The Vees are now 4-0 to start the BCHL pod season

Penticton Christian School. (Facebook)
COVID-19 exposure at Penticton independent school

The exposures are the latest in a quickly growing list in the Interior

Participants are encouraged to light a candle and watch the streamed event from home as speakers honor the lives of those lost to overdose from Gyro Bandshell in Penticton April 14, 2021. (Facebook photo)
Vigil for 5th anniversary of B.C. overdose crisis to be held in Penticton

To honor the lives lost to the overdose crisis and bring a call of action to policymakers

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen will speed up the process for hospitality businesses looking to set up patios during the latest COVID-19 restrictions. Under the most recent restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited, but patio dining is allowed. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen speeds up patio permit approval

Initiative to help hospitality businesses affected by latest COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read