The need for supported housing for those who are discharged from psychiatric facilities is still an issue in the province, says Alberta’s Mental Health Patient Advocate, Fay Orr.
Orr was in Red Deer on Tuesday to visit patients at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and to speak to the Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic about mental health patient advocacy and the role of the Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate Office, headquartered in Edmonton.
“The biggest gap in the system is what happens to someone when they are discharged,” Orr said.
“There needs to be more services to help them stay on their medication so that they don’t end up going to back into the hospital.”
But progress is being made, Orr added.
She said last September, Alberta Health Services and the government put out an addiction and mental health strategy called Creating Connections that attempts to identify the gaps in the system and suggests ways of addressing them.
“A lot of it is the matter of funding to implement some of these things, but the good news is at least it is recognized,” she said.
Staff from the Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate Office, which is independent of Alberta Health Services — visit 18 of Alberta’s designated mental health facilities at least twice a year and act as mediators between patients and their care providers. The office attempts to answer questions and informally investigates patient concerns or complaints.
Last year, the office opened 748 new patient files, including 18 from Red Deer hospital and 54 from Centennial Centre in Ponoka.
“We provide information, tell them about their rights and sometimes patients will ask if we could talk to their doctor for them,” Orr said.
While the Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate Office is independent of AHS, it reports directly to Health and Wellness Minister Fred Horne in order to offer a perspective on patient rights and to comment on mental health policies and procedures.
Another part of the office’s work is its ability to refer people to other services if it is determined that patients are out of its jurisdiction.
“We would encourage people if they are interacting with the mental health system, if they are a patient or a family member, to give our office a call. If they have any questions or concerns, we will do our best to help them,” Orr said.
For more information, visit www.mhpa.ab.ca. The Alberta Mental Health Patient Advocate Office can be contacted by calling 1-780-422-1812 or by emailing info@MHPA.ab.ca.