Every year, the Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (AFHTO) recognizes Family Health Teams leadership, outstanding work and significant progress being made to improve the care Ontario Family Health Teams across Ontario deliver.
Bright Lights Award recipients are:
Innovators – making small changes for maximum impact to improve patient experience and outcomes
Team Players – inter-professional teams, collaborators and relationship builders
Demonstrating Impact – can show how their work is benefitting the health care system
Family First Family Health Team is proud to have won such an award in the Comprehensive Team-Based Care category for increasing access to psychotherapy services.
Family First FHT’s Mental Health Team took action to defuse a critical mental health care situation in the local area by increasing access to its services. Many local hospitals had closed their mental health referral lists to the community, shut down dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT) services, or had wait times of up to 2 years.
Family First FHT’s Mental Health Team found this problematic for an already-underserved population. The aim was to decrease deterioration in those in this complex, underserved population with more severe symptoms (such as self-harm, emotion dysregulation) and psychiatric diagnoses (including Borderline Personality Disorder, eating disorders, treatment-resistant depression, interpersonal and personality disorders, and problem drinking).
The mental health team modified an existing program based on Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for a primary care setting. The program, which was launched in September 2018, provided evidence-based group interventions.
Its flexible format allowed patients to enroll in one of the three 4-week modules. Holding sessions in a primary care setting reduced barriers to participation, since there was no stigma associated with the location. Standardized outcome measures indicate reductions in symptoms of depression and anxiety, increases in work and social functioning, and real-life implementation of the new skills. Patients had an 86 per cent satisfaction rate.
The program reduces the demand on hospital-based care and empowers patients in their community, while shortening wait times and producing results. It also fostered an inclusive community of care providers and patients working together toward recovery.
Family First FHT’s mental health team has made it possible for primary care clinicians to assist more complex patients by being seamlessly supported by their multidisciplinary colleagues.