By Letter to the Editor on January 6, 2022.
We have a mental health crisis in Alberta. Specialists such as psychiatrists or psychologists are worth every dime but not everyone needs one. Behavioural Health Consultants (BHCs) are a cost effective way of filling the need. However the current funding model is flawed and needs to change.
BHCs aren’t psychiatrists or psychologists; they don’t prescribe medication but work with your doctor who can. You need a referral, but AHS covers unlimited visits. Doctors can only provide BHCs depending on how many patients they have and if they have a nurse or not. BHCs are attached to specific doctors, there’s no choice.
The funding model cost our family our free access. Our family doctor hired a nurse/practitioner and had to withdraw the BHC’s time.
The service should just be there, doctors shouldn’t be burdened with providing them time.
All told, eight family members saw this same BHC who helped us through incredible mental stresses such as:
Anxiety / depression – fight with WCB, relationship breakdown, relationship issues etc (all different people); Grief – loss of spouse and patriarch; ICU Delirium; Post ICU Syndrome; Caregiver PTSD.
BHCs are an invaluable health resource. Two years of COVID and we need more BHCs, especially now.
COVID restrictions greatly affected existing mental health issues. Our ordinary ways of self care were gone. COVID survivors and their families will need mental health supports especially if they were on life support.
Lately, I’ve been asked how I’d solve our current mental health crisis.
I want AHS to:
1 – Hire more BHCs;
2 – Change the current funding model so everyone can access them for free;
3 – Remove the burden from the doctors to provide the time for the BHCs.
An appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist can take months, but BHCs can see people quicker; they even do emergency appointments. Having more BHCs frees up the schedules of specialists for the most serious cases.
We don’t need high priced specialists for everyday stresses, BHCs can fill many needs for far less money. Stress wreaks havoc on the body. Better mental health translates into better physical health and savings for our health care system.
Kelly G. Allard