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Northern Health reviews downtown services

Northern Health is reviewing services it provides in downtown Prince George.

The review will focus on mental health and substance use programs and services including the HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (needle exchange) with the purpose of improving access, reducing duplication, improving the efficiency of services and to explore a service model with potential co-location opportunities.

The recent addition of an overdose prevention site downtown will be discussed, and the health services review will also include working with several community stakeholders and service partners.

“Health services are one area where improvements can be made for people with mental health, substance use and other health issues,” said Dr. Andrew Gray, Northern Health’s Northern Interior Medical Health Officer, in a press release. “I am pleased we will receive advice from community leaders into health services while also having the opportunity to engage them in a bigger conversation about what each agency can do to contribute to the well-being of people in the community who need it most.”

The review is already underway and when complete will provide Northern Health with information to develop actions that can be implemented in 2017.

The downtown health services review will include all health services provided by Northern Health; health services that Northern Health supports with staffing; and health services provided by other organizations through funding arrangements or contracts with Northern Health. Best practices from other communities who have addressed how health services are provided in their downtown communities will inform the review process.

Northern Health has also engaged an external advisory group, including representatives from the city, Downtown Prince George, the RCMP, BC Housing, and the First Nations Health Authority. The group will provide advice and input into the Northern Health service review. Additional stakeholders and leaders not on the advisory group will be engaged throughout the process.

“We regularly review services and programs across the region to ensure we are providing the best care possible as efficiently as possible,” said Penny Anguish, Northern Health Chief Operating Officer for the Northern Interior region. “We also recognize that this review is timely as we introduce new programs, such as the overdose prevention site, to support key provincial strategies in response to the current overdose situation.”

The health services review is expected to be complete by summer 2017, when a final report and recommendations will be shared. In the meantime, changes may be made to take advantage of immediate opportunities to improve the system and services provided.

“We applaud Northern Health for taking on this health services review,” said Mayor Lyn Hall. “The city is pleased to participate in the review as a member of the External Advisory Committee, and we will continue to work with Northern Health and other organizations to improve and revitalize the downtown.”

Downtown Prince George is also supportive of the review.

“We are pleased to be participating in this process, as we recognize the need for these health services and believe there is model that will meet the needs of our downtown business community and the community as a whole,” said Colleen Van Mook, executive director of Downtown Prince George.

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