Prince Albert getting additional 17 mental health treatment beds

The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region main office. Herald File Photo

Prince Albert could be getting 17 more provincially-funded mental health and addictions beds.

The province announced 75 new beds in this year’s budget for individuals with intensive mental health and addictions needs transitioning back to the community.

When the budget was released, few details were included as to where those beds would be located or what the services would look like.

But according to documents included as a part of a request for proposals (RFP) posted to the SaskTenders website by the Saskatchewan Health Authority earlier this month, the province is intending to partner with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations to provide 25 new intensive support and 50 less intensive support spaces.

Of those, five intensive beds are planned for Prince Albert, as well as 12 Next Step medium-to-high level residential support spaces.

The tender documents cite the 2014 mental health and addictions action plan and one of its goals of enhancing supportive housing options.

The RFP quotes Dr. Fern Stockdale Winder, the commissioner of the plan, who says there is strong evidence that stable housing combined with community supports leads to better outcomes for people living with complex mental health and addictions issues, reducing the use of more costly. hospital beds or the justice system down the road.

“Currently, there is a lack of community residential placement options for patients of the Saskatchewan Health Authority who have severe and persistent mental health issues,” the document says, “(and) to adequately and safely support the intensity of needs post-discharge from the Saskatchewan Hospital North Battleford and acute mental health inpatient units.

“Patients being discharged who are inadequately housed and inadequately supported are at risk of homelessness, increased emergency department use and increased inpatient admission.”

 The need for more mental health and addictions beds has been pointed out before. In 2018, the provincial auditor called out the former Prince Albert Parkland Health Region for struggling to keep up with the demand for services. Earlier this summer, Health critic Daniel Chartier told the Herald that access to mental health and addictions treatment across the province is slow, so when people need help, it’s not there.

According to the tender documents, the hope is the new beds will help reduce re-admission, reduce additional hospital stays due to a lack of appropriate placements and create a better flow and transition for those working to live in the community independently.

The high-intensity residential support beds will be intended for patients who have been discharged from inpatient units and have highly individualized needs requiring a high level of supervision, structure and support. The goal will be to prepare them to live more independently in the community. The facilities are required to have 24/7 staffing, including nursing support.

According to the document, it appears that clients will be responsible for the rental portion of costs covering their room and board.

The new medium-to-high level beds are for clients who aren’t quite independent but can live in their own apartment or a residence of their choosing. The focus is on “intensive visiting supports that might be daily and increasing or decreasing in the frequency of contact as client’s condition requires.”

As with the high-intensity beds, the goal is to transition to more independent living.

Clients of the medium-to-high- support services will be responsible for their own rent, clothing, recreation, food, transportation and personal needs.

The  75 beds were part of a record $402 million investment in mental health, an increase of about $30 million from last year.

According to documents released by the provincial government when the budget was released, the 75 new residential beds would help free up hospital space as well as pre and post addiction treatment beds, potentially doubling addiction treatment bed capacity.

The budget also included $1.8 million for the creation of three new Rapid Access to Addition Medicine clinics, one each for Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert.