Mental health, addictions help offered for evacuees

Mental health and addictions support systems have been an essential part of the health care and emergency social services offered at CNC and other shared living space for evacuees forced to flee the Cariboo wildfires.

"Northern Health has worked with the city and the emergency social services that are at the evacuee centres and we have put into place advanced mental health and addictions supports for people," Aaron Bond, director of specialized services for the Northern Interior for Northern Health, said. "It's also such a stressful event for people and it's so unsettling so we knew that we wanted to have some added mental health and addictions support there for people as they needed it."

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If someone is in need of mental health and addictions support, it might be identified during a conversation with a physician or clinician at the on-site health clinic, Bond explained.

"Then we connect the person to that team," he said. "So that could be helping them with medication, and we have had daily check-ins or more than daily check-ins just to really give people that avenue of support and it might just be finding that quiet space, which sounds simple, but it's so important for some people."

Bond said they've made sure the team has been connected with everything that's been going on at the evacuation centres.

There is a team on site, a consultative team and assistance offered off-site as well, depending on the need of the patient.

"The teams at the evacuation centre are out and about and if there's somebody that looks like they're in distress for sure the team would be involved in an appropriate intervention, whatever that would look like," he said. "In an evacuation this size, you get all parts of the population that require support and so we've just really tried to be attentive and responsive to the people who might have more health care needs than the average citizen and so that's what we've tried to mobilize there."

The people that stay in the large group living space that was offered at CNC, which has now been relocated to the Northern Sport Centre, is not necessarily the ideal place to be, but for some people it's their only alternative.

"It's difficult just being evacuated and then having no other place to go and having ongoing healthcare needs whether it's mental health and addictions or home supports, I mean there's so many different things that people are needing and it has been difficult and I have to say going down there and seeing what people are trying to do to help support people has just been awe-inspiring. We wanted to work in partnership to make sure that if there were evacuees that showed up at CNC and that have shown up at CNC that do require more advanced healthcare intervention that we'd be able to support that and I think for the most part we have and it hasn't been easy but none of the situation has been easy and I got to give it to the volunteers and the staff there that's doing it every single day."

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