Alberta’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) recently did a followup audit on the Alberta Health Service’s (AHS) mental health service delivery, replacing 11 former recommendations with three new suggestions.
“People who suffer from addictions and mental illness experience an incredible amount of pain and hardship,” said Sarah Hoffman, Alberta health minster, in a press release. “Their friends and family members suffer as well. We need to fully implement and measure the addictions and mental health strategy so people get the care and support they need.”
The three recommendations made by the OAG were the integration of mental health services and the elimination of gaps in service, better use of information management in health and addictions and supporting the work of cross-ministry community housing supports for the mentally ill.
Vickie Kaminski, AHS president and CEO, says she has accepted the recommendations made by the OAG and has pledged to continue in improving the care given to those with addiction and mental illness, as well as working with other organizations to make sure clients get the help they need.
“The issues raised in this report are significant and important,” she said. “We understand the importance of providing Albertans affected by mental illness and addictions with the care and services they require, when they need it.”
According to a separate release, auditors took another look at the Department of Health and the AHS’s systems that carry out the delivery of mental health services across Alberta. They say the department has failed to move forward with their 2011 addiction and mental health strategy in a proper fashion and that the strategy doesn’t have to be redesigned but just needs to be carried out in the first place.
They say that AHS, on the other hand, has made substantial improvements since their 2008 audits but the delivery of frontline addiction and mental health service is still unintegrated, making for gaps in service continuity.
“In our opinion, based on the evidence we have from this and other recent audits of healthcare service delivery, AHS has both the mandate and capacity to coordinate the efforts of those entities that should be involved in integrating public mental health and addictions services.”
Colleen Turner, senior program officer, community engagement and communications for AHS, says bringing together the multiple patient care record systems that existed before the formation of AHS into one effective system is a very large and complex task, with no quick fix.
She says they have put significant resources toward making a provincial Clinical Information System (CIS) and they expect this work will be well underway within the next five years but will continue to progress over the next decade.
“Work is underway to address changes in legislation that are necessary to fully transition into a single provincial CIS,” she said.
“In the interim, we are looking at cost-effective temporary solutions for sharing of addiction and mental health patient information. For example, we are looking at how we can expand access for physicians in the community access to our information, and in turn be able to access theirs, while ensuring patient privacy is protected. This work continues.”