North Battleford is one of four communities that may receive more addictions and mental health supports. The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) supporting a provincial budget commitment to develop 75 residential support beds for the city, as well as in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert, for individuals with severe and persistent mental health needs.

The RFP is for 25 intensive support beds and 50 less intensive beds; these resources will support those transitioning from hospital back to the community. North Battleford is intended to receive both less-intensive and medium intensive beds. Vikki Smart, executive director of primary healthcare for the south northwest, says the extra beds will help improve outcomes for folks who are struggling.

“When you’re thinking about people who have very complex needs with mental health, and if you overlay that with addictions, it’s another complicating factor with folks trying to cope,” says Smart. “If they lose their housing, if they don’t have a place to live, how can we work with them?”

The SHA says that individuals who have severe and persistent mental health needs benefit greatly from client-centred services in their community. Without supportive residential options, there can be overutilization of less appropriate resources in the community such as acute mental health beds in general hospitals, emergency room care, emergency shelters and shelters for the homeless or police cells.

The beds allow for proper support for complex health issues in a residential setting. On top of residential support, those living with them can work with recovery teams and psychiatrists to develop an individual care plan and move forward. Smart says the support is a crucial step in helping folks who need them keep on track to recovery and live a productive life.

“Just to have someone who’s there with you on that journey in a little more intensive way, as you go through this, and really learn how to live back in the community again and live in a productive way. At least you have a chance; you have a chance if you have stable housing. So to me, this is really critical.”

It’s an idea receiving support from professionals across the province. Colleen Quinlan, Executive Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services, Integrated Urban Health for the SHA, counts the benefits these beds have.

“The benefits of these support beds are many,” says Quinlan. “They will improve the ability of individuals with significant and persistent mental health needs to reside in the community, to manage their symptoms and to achieve their individual goals. They will also reduce hospitalization and length of stay in hospital, and prevent the need to go to emergency departments.”

The RFP and concept of new beds are receiving high praise. Health Minister Jim Reiter calls the supports valuable and sees it as more accessible support.

“Residential supports are a valuable community service for people experiencing mental health challenges,” says Reiter. “More people will be able to access the help they need to manage their mental health challenges. This investment will go a long way in supporting the health and wellness of Saskatchewan residents.”

The RFP is open to affiliates, private sector partners and community-based organizations. It comes down in August, and Smart hopes tender bids will work with existing housing options and have the beds available by late fall. The SHA says enhanced residential supports are a key recommendation under Saskatchewan’s Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan.