UBCO establishes clinic to study mental illness

Research into behaviour treatment and medication use a first in Canada.

  • Nov. 25, 2012 7:00 p.m.

A teaching and research clinic for treating mental illness, focused on individual and family mental health and wellbeing, has opened at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

The Interprofessional Clinic is a collaborative venture between the Schools of Social Work and Nursing in the Faculty of Health and Social Development and the Psychology Department in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences.

The clinic will undertake an initial study into new treatments for nine-to-14-year-olds who are currently on a program of prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. The study is being funded by a $50,000 gift from the RBC Foundation through UBC’s start an evolution campaign.

“Through the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project, we are committed to assisting organizations and programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase awareness about children’s mental health issues,” says Karen Borring-Olsen, regional vice-resident, RBC Royal Bank, Okanagan.

“We are proud to support the Inter-professional Practice Clinic at UBC; we believe this project will make a meaningful difference for the families directly involved and future families through the generation of critical research.”

Edward Taylor, director of the School of Social Work and associate dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Development, says the study will have an initial enrollment of 15 to 20 youth patients and their families starting in late December or early January 2013.

“The research project will provide intervention for de-escalating aggressive behaviour and working with physicians and families to determine if antipsychotic medications can be safely decreased.”

The study will use a combination of strategies to provide individual case management, family support and family education as a service provided to the community. Researchers will offer patients intense, individual treatments in an effort to reduce use of anti-psychotic medications. The results are expected to help identify individuals who are candidates for this type of treatment and factors that contribute to successful outcomes.

“We will manage links to all of the components of community, school, physicians and family to help develop a coordinated effort that is not available through normal channels,” says Taylor.

The Interprofessional Clinic will also be used as a teaching centre. Graduate students from the School of Social Work and Psychology Department preparing to become front-line mental health workers will provide clinical support.

Students from the School of Nursing will gain clinical knowledge, skills and expertise. The nursing focus will be on intervening with families experiencing difficulties managing chronic and life-limiting illnesses, says Carole Robinson, associate professor of nursing.

“An important aspect of the interprofessional approach is that students from different disciplines in nursing, psychology and social work will have the opportunity to learn with, about and from each other,” says Robinson. “This addresses the current trend in health care of a team approach, which has been shown to more effectively address complex health and illness issues.”

“The Interprofessional Clinic provides a setting for innovative research, where students earning their PhDs in psychology will assess and provide continuing consultation to patients and their families,” says Jan Cioe, head of UBC’s psychology department.

The youth study is an opportunity for professionals to collaborate on common issues, says Cioe.

“Working with colleagues from other disciplines, we will use emerging best practices to treat these young patients with the goal of reducing their use of anti-psychotic drugs.”

The study will go beyond previous investigations that mainly focused on drug protocols and patient numbers, says Taylor.

“There has never been an intense study of how these children are doing in the community, how their education plays a role, how managing all aspects of their case impacts their wellbeing.

“Our interests are in the provision of service for the families and better outcomes for patients.”

Space for the Interprofessional Clinic has been provided in the Arts and Sciences Centre at UBC. There are counselling rooms and group rooms are outfitted with IT and video capability for research and study. Decorations and furniture for the clinic have been provided through an anonymous donor.

For more information, community agencies and families can call Prof. Taylor at 250-807-8740 or by email at edward.taylor@ubc.ca.

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