Reprinted from "Concurrent Disorders" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (1), p. 3
As Dr. John Anderson points out in his guest editorial, what were once two solitudes are now coming together. The most unfortunate impact of the old approach was experienced from the perspective of the consumer, whose concurrent mental health and addictions issues often went undiagnosed, and when recognized, represented two separate service systems for the individual and/or his or her caregivers to navigate. But this is starting to change, and the evidence is all around us.
At the ministerial level, addictions and mental health have merged, and a consistent policy framework is being developed to guide service delivery throughout the province. At the regional level, health authorities are coordinating and integrating mental health and alcohol and drug services. At the service delivery level, mental health and addictions personnel are coming together to learn from each other and to develop collaborative approaches to dealing with people who struggle with both issues. And people with concurrent disorders themselves are developing their own approaches for dealing with both.
As many of the articles in this issue of Visions suggest, we need to respect similarity – but within a diversity of approaches – since what helps may be different depending on gender, diagnosis, severity, age, or ethnocultural community, for example. Ultimately, a successful approach to managing concurrent disorders depends on the unique relationship that the two issues have for any given individual. This relationship, and the hows and why of their coexistence, needs to be teased out for each person before a fighting chance at recovery can be created.
It is fitting and in keeping with this idea, of a common approach that respects diversity, that this issue of Visions is the first to be published under the banner of the BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information. We represent a number of separate agencies, dealing with both mental health and addictions concerns, who are now speaking with one voice, as we continue to help people with one or both issues achieve, as our tagline says, ‘empowerment through information.