Communities are struggling under the weight of mental health and substance use. Citizens, governments and health providers alike are frustrated with lack of progress. The issues are boiling over on the streets, in our homes, and in conversations online and offline. Everyone seems to have someone who has been affected by mental health and—worse—know someone who has been lost to the mental health and opioid crisis.
A local outpatient mental health service, Healthy Essentials Clinic, has one piece of a solution. Their structured recovery programs have results: 97 per cent reduction in hospital visits, 100 per cent of youth and young adults stay in school, and 91 per cent of adults stay at work or return to work.
Opioid related deaths in Canada hit a staggering 4,460 in 2018. For perspective, this is more than double the 1,841 motor vehicle fatalities in Canada in 2017. Here in B.C. the problem is worse than in other provinces. Fully 25 per cent of youth aged nine to 19 live with mental illness, and 75 per cent of them don’t receive proper treatment. People struggle to gain access to treatment, let alone effective treatment. The cost to our health care system and to our communities is staggering.
A small social enterprise in Lake Country is creating real results. Christina Camilleri is a registered dietitian and counsellor who has been supporting people with mental health and substance use issues for 30 years. Working within, outside and alongside our provincial health system, she’s recently expanded her Healthy Essentials Clinic as a regional mental health service.
The clinic primarily focuses on supporting individuals and families struggling with mild to moderate mental health or substance use issues. HEC’s structured programs offer a multidisciplinary and multi-modality approach to treatment.
The clinic uniquely includes the family in treatment. The B.C. Ministry of Health identifies family-centred care as a best practice, but it is certainly not yet common. Inclusion of the family is critical in effective treatment outcomes for mental health.
Similar to going to the dentist, this type of health care service is paid primarily through employee health benefit plans per family member. Some families with high needs also pay privately after they have exhausted the resources covered by their benefit plans. While 24 million Canadians have supplementary health benefits from their employers, nearly 19 million Canadians don’t use their plans. Purppl, a local social enterprise accelerator, has helped HEC build a sustainable social enterprise using this extremely under-utilized pool of healthcare dollars to make meaningful improvements to the health of Canadians.
Healthy Essentials Clinic is also committed to making their programs available to restricted income individuals and families. A portion of their profits and their time has been and will continue to be focused on providing subsidized or free service to those in need.
Topnotch healthcare professionals have quickly jumped on board to be a part of this multi-disciplinary team. The team is led by Camilleri, and she’s been joined by Dr. Heather Derry (psychiatrist), Jennifer Podovennikoff (clinical and sport dietitian), Shannon Warner (HEC counsellor), JB Cole (HEC counsellor), and Linda Brattinga (HEC counsellor). The team has a variety of specialization in pediatrics, neonatal, eating disorders, counselling, grief and loss, pregnancy, children and youth, men’s programming and more. The clinic is actively looking for like-minded physicians and physiotherapists to join the team.
Camilleri is using a sustainable impact model and a sustainable business model to directly address a chronic social issue affecting many communities in Canada. She’s part of a huge global movement of social entrepreneurship. One social entrepreneur won’t solve the problem, but one can certainly influence and contribute towards change.
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