Fraser Health is hiring 11 professionals to comprise a new mental health outreach team in Maple Ridge, and the man assembling the squad has deep roots in the community.
Anthony Neptune has already filled some of the positions – nurses, a psychiatrist, social workers, outreach workers and peer support workers.
The Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team will support people living with serious, persistent mental illness. These are often clients having trouble managing daily life, and some will be struggling with addiction and homelessness.
A key part of the new team’s approach, is that they will go to their clients, and not expect them to come to an office appointment.
“The entire team supports the entire cohort of individuals,” said Neptune. “The team is going to be out in the community, where the people are.”
“We will go and see people where they live.”
He calls it a proactive approach to providing services, and said research proves this approach works well for people who have had problems accessing services. They may be trying to get by living on the streets, and they may be frequently engaged with emergency services, or turning up at the Ridge Meadows Hospital ER, he said.
Approximately 75 per cent of their services will be delivered in people’s homes, in shelters, parks or cafes.
They don’t work with clients who have substance use problems without a mental health issue.
Neptune, a Fraser Health manager in rehabilitation and recovery services, is glad to see Maple Ridge getting an ACT team. He grew up here, graduated from Maple Ridge secondary, and his children attended Thomas Haney secondary. He still lives in his home community. So the issue of Maple Ridge’s wellness hits home.
“I know the reality – some of the people struggling in our community are people who I went to school with,” he said.
“One of the things that drives me to help people, is that this is someone’s friend, someone’s brother, someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, someone’s son.”
They address issues like housing, giving their clients stability in their lives, and do intensive work with them. They can help them get medication, take them grocery shopping, get them counselling and treatment, and connect them with services. There is a wide range of supportive activities in work known as psycho-social rehabilitation.
“Individuals usually don’t need this level of service for their rest of their life,” said Neptune. “They improve. They get better.”
That has been the experience in Surrey, where the first ACT team in Fraser Health went to work in 2012. By 2015 they added a second team, and soon the two teams were helping up to 170 people at a time.
The teams have had an impressive track record so far, and Maple Ridge is one of six communities to receive a new one this year. They were announced in September, and there will also be new teams in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Nanaimo and Cowichan/Duncan.
“We are thrilled to welcome more supports to our vibrant community and know that the expertise and experience of a new ACT team will provide a connection to vital services that many people living with severe mental health challenges have been looking for,” said Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission. “To have a qualified team of professionals working together to support someone’s unique circumstances is the best way to get them on the right path, and that’s what this team will do in our community.”
Neptune would like to see the team begin its work as soon as February. They will provide services seven days a week.
“There are folks right now who need support,” he said. “I’m really excited to see it in Maple Ridge.”