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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

New screening and assessment tools improving the quality of addiction treatment

In what’s being hailed as the largest clinical change to Ontario's addiction system in more than two decades, CAMH’s Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) is rolling out a new package of screening and assessment tools that will result in better treatment for clients accessing addiction services funded by the province.

Woman being assessed by doctor
“The old tools didn’t work well as an integrated package -- they were weak in terms of addressing concurrent disorders-- the mental health conditions that exist alongside or co-occur with addiction problems," explains CAMH Scientist Dr. Brian Rush, who, with funding from Health Canada’s Drug Treatment Funding Program (DTFP), led the CAMH team that developed and tested the new package of tools.

"An estimated 60 to 80 per cent of people coming in for addiction treatment have co-occurring mental health challenges,” explains Brian. “These new tools are more comprehensive and will help identify both substance use and mental health issues among clients seeking substance use services, which will increase appropriate referrals and help in treatment planning.”

Piloting the Tools

Developed with input from addiction agencies and people with lived experience, the new tools were piloted at five addiction agencies across the province and will eventually be rolled out to 175 addiction agencies across the province.

The feedback was extremely positive," says Brian. "Agencies liked the new staged approach to client screening which can quickly and accurately identify clients requiring a more thorough assessment. They also liked the tool for adolescents 12-17 years old which helps counsellors develop age-appropriate treatment plans.

“These new assessment tools lay an excellent foundation for measuring the client’s progress over time,” Brian adds. “A counsellor can use them to help motivate clients to work on different challenges they are experiencing and assess progress over time. There is also a high potential to track other outcomes such as a reduction in use of emergency services.”

Moving evidence-based research into practice

Kim Baker is the DTFP Implementation Supervisor in PSSP at CAMH. She and a team of implementation coordinators and coaches are working with Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) to provide training, certification and coaching of clinicians and counsellors.

“We have already begun working with a group who will become trainers on this new process to support training in agencies now and in the future,” says PSSP Implementation Coordinator Angela Martella. “We are currently identifying a small group of service providers in each of the eight LHINs to be trained before end of the year. Training is expected to start in the remaining six LHINs over the next year.”

Brian Rush and Kim Baker
Left to right CAMH Scientist Dr. Brian Rush and Kim Baker, DTFP Implementation Supervisor in PSSP

"Through this new process we are embedding more consistency in terms of the client experience, and providing the same high quality process regardless of where clients access care,” says Kim.  “These new tools will enhance the quality of care within the addiction system and PSSP is uniquely positioned in our ability to support provincial implementation.”

“This work is a great example of bringing evidence-based practices to the community,” adds Brian. “This is a great example of bringing research to practice at a system-wide level”.  This collaboration between CAMH Research and PSSP will have a big impact across the province in terms of how people will be engaged in their treatment planning. Better assessments will result in high quality individualized treatment plans and better outcomes.”

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