Mental illness affects one in five Albertans during their lifetime. Severe and persistent mental illness is a chronic disease and should be treated like one. Even minor or episodic mental health problems can easily deteriorate into lifelong chronic illness, without proper and timely treatment. Mental illness is often experienced along with other chronic diseases and significantly complicates their treatment.
Objective and Scope
With this follow-up audit, we applied the chronic disease management model to examine how well the health system meets the care needs of people with serious mental illness. We frame our findings within the model described in our September 2014 report on chronic disease management.
The key feature of that model is patient-centred care—care organized around the needs of patients rather than around the structure of the health system.
Systems to deliver mental health services in Alberta should be improved.
The Department of Health has failed to properly execute its addiction and mental health strategy. There is no need to redesign the strategy; rather the department needs to carry it out. The department also has not done any detailed analysis or reporting on the strategy. Without analysis it is not possible to know if, and how, the plan has led to significant and meaningful change in how mental health and addictions patients are cared for.
AHS has made important improvements since our original 2008 mental health audits. For the most part, however, the delivery of frontline addiction and mental health services remains unintegrated and allows ongoing gaps in service continuity. We found this lack of integration affected healthcare services in three areas.