Transition Model Deals with Mental Health Care Reform

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As the care for clients with mental health problems shift to the community, new models of care are needed. Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, Scientist at the Lawson Health Research Institute and Professor at the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences at The University of Western Ontario and colleagues from London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Care London, St. Joseph’s Healthcare, Hamilton, McMaster University and Whitby Mental Health Centre, working together with many community peer support partners, have been studying a transitional discharge model, comparing it to the standard approach to discharge. The three-year study entitled “Therapeutic Relationships: From Hospital to Community” is funded by the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, the Canadian Donner Foundation, the Trillium Foundation, Lawson Health Research Institute as well as the host institutions and community peer support partners.

The model looks at two types of support for clients who are discharged from the hospital: (a) peer support, which is assistance from former clients of the mental health care system who provide friendship, understanding, encouragement and teach community-living skills, and (b) an overlap of hospital and community staff, though which the hospital staff continue to treat clients until the clients have a working relationship with a community care provider. These combined strategies form a safety net of relationships to assist clients in their move from hospital to community living.

One-year study outcomes suggest that implementation of the model resulted in much shorter lengths of stay on the wards resulting in a substantial cost savings per patient to the health-care system. Despite leaving hospital almost four months sooner, the group receiving the new model of care used slightly less emergency room and hospital services after discharge. ” Not only did the model save money, but clients using the intervention model showed improved functioning and better quality of life related to their social relationships,” stated Dr. Forchuk, principal investigator on the project. “The clients who were part of the study were definitely further along in their therapeutic recovery than those who used standard discharge.”

The study is funded to continue for another year; however, with the midway results so positive, it may become the next standard model for clients to be discharged from hospital and the successful transition into the community.