Derik Blanchard, a DMHS community mental health worker, represents the agency on the Concurrent Disorder Capacity Building Team of Durham Region. He has been a champion of building DMHS’ capacity to serve clients who present with both substance abuse and mental health disorders. He sat down to answer a few questions about the month.
Why a month-long focus on concurrent disorders?
Because of their prevalence – the saying is that concurrent disorders are the expectation for mental health services, as opposed to the exception. We should always be alert to the possibility that a client’s health might be affected by substance use in addition to whatever mental illness they are struggling with. Another reason to devote a whole month to the topic is to give the agency time to complete self-assessment questionnaires – both for individual staff and for entire programs – that gauge our current level of competency in terms of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values. We’ve been doing these for three years and we’ve seen increases across the board in our capacity to deliver welcoming and effective support to individuals who face the double burden of concurrent disorders.
What events are planned?
On November 25 from 2:00 to 4:00pm, there’s going to be an information-sharing session that all staff are welcome to join. Some community agencies will be joining us – Pinewood Centre, The Youth Centre, and Oshawa Community Health Centre – to provide information on their services and referral processes.
We will also be rolling out a resource manual that any staff can use to direct clients to the appropriate services. This will include CD-capable resources.
We are also waiting to hear back from CAMH about receiving a series of information pamphlets suitable for staff or clients that we can post conspicuously. If they see a pamphlet talking about marijuana, for example, they may say, “Hey, it’s OK for me to talk about that here.” We don’t want anyone thinking that honest talk about their addictions will disqualify them from service.
What else DMHS is doing to build CD service capacity?
This is our third annual Concurrent Disorder month. In the first year, we organized an internal Concurrent Disorder committee with representation from each program. We reviewed our policies and procedures to ensure they were concurrent disorder friendly and provided clear direction to staff on how to handle situations involving clients who experience Concurrent Disorders. We hosted several training sessions – Stages of Change, Street Drugs 101, Motivational Interviewing, Drug Interactions, etc. – from Pinewood staff, who have the expertise on these topics. We did the COMPASS and CODECAT self-assessment surveys two years in a row.