It is estimated that about half of all people who experience mental health issues also experience addiction – and about half of all people who experience addiction also experience mental health disorders. Given these statistics, co-occurring mental health and addiction problems – or Concurrent Disorders – are a major concern for community mental health service providers like Durham Mental Health Services. As stated by noted researcher Dr. Kenneth Minkoff, it should be considered the expectation, not the exception, that a client presenting to services in either sector will have a Concurrent Disorder.
November is Concurrent Disorder Month at DMHS, an opportunity to take stock and to build capacity to effectively support clients who experience Concurrent Disorders. One activity during the month will be the completion of two assessment tools developed by Dr. Kenneth Minkoff. The COMPASS tool is designed to assess concurrent disorder capacity within programs; this will be completed by each DMHS program team. All agency staff have also received a copy of the CODECAT; this tool measures concurrent disorder capacity at the individual level, not only in terms of knowledge and skills but also attitudes and values.
Derik Blanchard is a DMHS community mental health worker who represents the organization on the Durham Region’s Concurrent Disorder Capacity Building Team. Derik says, “These tools are part of our commitment to continually improve our Concurrent Disorder capacity and to honour our commitment to the Concurrent Disorder Charter that DMHS signed in 2007. The results from these assessments help to highlight any training and development needs that staff have, from learning new skills to gaining knowledge in Concurrent Disorders during the upcoming year.”
The agency is also hosting a one day training and information session that has been planned by the DMHS Concurrent Disorder Committee. The morning will feature a presentation on Concurrent Disorders and Stages of Change and will also include a powerful Canadian National Film Board documentary entitled Through a Blue Lens. The afternoon will consist of information on designer drugs presented by Ontario Shores Addictions Specialist Mandi Broll as well as information from The Youth Centre and Oshawa Community Health Centre about their current range of Concurrent Disorder services.
Derik Blanchard observes that “Becoming Concurrent Disorder capable doesn’t mean that we have to be experts in both mental health and substance use, but it does mean that we have an openness in talking about both and that we collaborate in treatment planning that may involve additional agencies.”