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For Immediate Release


March 25, 2009

Ministry of Health Services

BC Medical Association




VICTORIA – Patients with a wide range of mental health conditions will benefit from the introduction of a new mental health training program for physicians that will provide doctors with education on the latest mental health-care supports and information on local resources, Health Services Minister George Abbott announced today.


            The training module is set to launch in June 2009 and is an initiative of the General Practice Services Committee, a joint committee of the Ministry of Health Services and the BC Medical Association that works to renew primary health care in this province.


            “One in five British Columbians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime, and we’ve found that as many as 80 per cent of these individuals will go to their family doctor for assistance,” said Abbott. “We’ve heard from GPs that they need more support in the area of mental health care and this program is designed to provide up to 800 B.C. doctors with more support in dealing with their patients’ mental health-related concerns.”


            Up to 40 GPs from across the province will participate in “train the trainer” sessions in April and May. These GPs will then return to their own communities and beginning in June, will teach mental health-care skills to cohorts of up to 30 physicians during half-day learning sessions. The initial training sessions will be led by Dr. Rivian Weinerman, the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s site chief of psychiatry for the south Island.


            "This is an excellent example of the shared care approach between family physicians, specialist psychiatrists, mental health clinicians in the community,” said Dr. Bill Mackie, president of the BC Medical Association. “This partnership between the patient and the co-ordinated care team will enhance the care that was provided previously for conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD and substance abuse."


            GPs participating in the module will learn approaches to help them improve services to patients and enhance their confidence and capacity to screen, diagnose and treat mental health conditions. A key component of the module is how to engage the patient in their own treatment and self-management. As part of the module, physicians will receive a toolkit that includes:

·        A manual to help diagnose depression and detect any other co-existing mental health disorders;

·        A self-care workbook for patients with depression;

·        Patient-directed screening tools to assist in determining if a patient feels depressed or anxious; and

·        The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Bounce Back program, an initiative to help people with chronic physical conditions better cope with low mood and anxiety.


Additionally, a number of psychiatrists and mental health clinicians from each region will act as advisors, sharing their expertise in mental health care, treatment techniques and knowledge of regional resources, with GPs participating in the learning modules.         


            “Helping GPs enhance their skills using our mental health module will reinvigorate their office practice within their time constraints and will yield enormous benefits for our patients,” said Weinerman. “As a result, physicians will be able to shift from acute reactive mental health care to planned proactive mental health care, and be able to use regional resources more effectively.”


            The mental health module is one of five learning modules offered to physicians across the province through GPSC’s practice support program. The other learning modules relate to: advanced access; chronic disease management; patient self-management; and group medical visits.


            GPSC implemented the practice support program in May 2007 and the program’s overarching goals are to improve physician professional satisfaction and patient access to quality care.


            This year, the Province expects to spend more than $1.2 billion on mental health and addictions – an increase of more than 42 per cent since 2001.







Bernadette Murphy

Media Relations Manager

Ministry of Health Services

250 952-1887 (media line)

250 213-9590 (cell)

Sharon Shore

Senior Manager of Communications

BC Medical Association

604 638-2832

604 306-1866 (pager)





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