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CAMH Care Providers Overview Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Nutrition at CAMH


Introduction

At the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) there are registered dietitians who work in many areas of both addictions and mental health.  Dietitians are integral members of the clinical multidisciplinary teams at CAMH

CAMH requires that all registered dietitians be registered with the College of Dietitians of Ontario.  As with all regulated health professionals at CAMH, registered dietitians must provide annual proof of membership in good standing with the College.  For information regarding this College, visit www.cdo.on.ca.  Many dietitians at CAMH also participate in Dietitians of Canada www.dietitians.ca however, are not required to do so.  For additional information visit Dietitians of Canada website at www.dietitians.ca

Good nutrition is essential for good health, and is an important factor in the treatment of addictions and mental illnesses.  The team of dietitians at CAMH uses various counseling techniques when working with clients as a way to help motivate them to make healthy eating and lifestyle choices.  Registered Dietitians facilitate healthy eating habits among clients in order to promote more effective treatment and recovery.  The Dietitians are also skilled in the area of therapeutic diets, needed by many of our clients in the aid of their recovery.  The nutrition department has an active student education placement component and each year we provide placements for students, primarily from recognized undergraduate and graduate nutrition programs.

Nutrition and Addiction

Addiction often results in drastic changes to eating habits, possibly leading to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.  It is well documented that people struggling with addictions encounter low levels of folate, vitamins A, D, B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium and selenium.  Poor appetite, irregular meal patterns and the actual metabolism of harmful chemicals can cause malnutrition.  Substance use has a toxic effect on the digestive tract causing malabsorption problems even when a well balanced diet can be achieved.  The metabolism of drugs and alcohol put an increased demand on the body for nutrients.  At the same time, vitamins and co-enzymes may be inactivated and nutrient stores can become low.  Addiction clients have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, HIV and Hepatitis C infection and co-infection in addition to poor appetite, diarrhea and/or constipation. 

Within a harm-reduction framework, the clinical dietitian may use various therapeutic skill sets such as motivational interviewing to help move clients through the stages of change in order to facilitate permanent life style change.  Improvements in diet not only help reduce the risk of obesity, heart problems, cancer, osteoporosis, liver disease and diabetes but also have a profound affect on mental health.  Many clients who work with the dietitian report increases in energy, better sleeping patterns and feeling more balanced emotionally.

Nutrition and Mental Health

Canadians face many nutrition challenges and while we are generally interested in the subject and trying to make healthy choices many factors affect those choices.

The media takes advantage of our interest and bombards us with information and advice of varying legitimacy, busy lives result in many meals eaten out or purchased pre prepared and healthy food is often perceived to be more expensive than high calorie fast food. Many Canadians do not have the nutritional literacy or the time to be doing what is required for optimum nutrition on a regular basis.

In addition food fulfills many other functions in our lives. It is part of our social lives and a vehicle to relaxation with friends, factors that over ride what our bodies tell us about satiety.

Those with mental illness experience the nutrition challenges common to us all and many others. A number of antipsychotic medications promote significant weight gain predisposing individuals to hypertension, dyslipidemia and diabetes, a condition referred to as The Metabolic Syndrome.

It has also been recognized that low income is a significant contributor to the poor diets of those with mental illness.

Dietitians work to help clients prevent diabetes when lab values start to increase indicating a pre diabetic state. They provide individual or group counseling for nutrition related disease such as dyslipidemia or gastric esophageal reflux disease.

Dietitians teach nutritional and healthy eating in groups. An example would be a cooking group to teach healthy eating on a disability budget. Meals are planned, groceries purchased locally, meals prepared and shared together. At a cost that replicates the money available to clients on average at discharge.

Student Placement Information – FAQ’s

What placements are available in your discipline?
Placements are available for dietetic interns from an accredited comprehensive internship program or from a Master’s degree which is accredited and is geared towards becoming a dietitian.


Am I able to do a block placement?
Yes.

Am I able to do my placement hours in the evenings/weekends because I work?
No.

Am I able to split my placement between 2 programs (i.e, Addictions Program and MAUI)?
It depends on the length of your placement and the availability of dietitians.  This would have to be arranged on a case-by-case review.

What qualifications are required for placement in the dietetic discipline?
A Bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition from a university program that has been accredited by Dietitians of Canada (DC) or an international equivalent OR working towards a Masters degree in a program that is accredited by DC (or equivalent).

Is CAMH affiliated with my educational institution?

CAMH is affiliated with the University of Toronto.  Affiliation agreements have been established between Ryerson University and Brescia College at the University of Western Ontario for dietetic placements.

I’m not from Canada.  Can I still do a dietetic placement at CAMH?
This would be decided on a case-by-case review.

How are placements organized?
The majority of the time internship or placement coordinators will contact the Dietitian-in-Chief directly.  Students will be asked to include their coordinators in discussion if they approach the Dietitian-in-Chief directly.


How do I apply for a dietetic placement at CAMH?
Have your internship or placement coordinator contact CAMH’s Dietitian-in-Chief, Amanda Schwartz, 416-535-8501, Ext. 7016, or by e-mail, at amanda.schwartz@camh.ca.

What mandatory trainings are required prior to placement?
No mandatory trainings are required prior to placement.  All mandatory trainings are CAMH specific and students complete them when they start their rotations.

Do I require any immunizations before coming to CAMH?
It is mandatory for students to have the 2 step TB test, or proof that it has been completed recently.  The flu shot is recommended however, not mandatory.  It should be noted that, if the student has not received the flu shot, and the unit they are working on has an outbreak, they will not be permitted to return to the floor until the outbreak is cleared.  This can interfere with the completion of their rotations.


Will I require a police check?
The requirement of a police check is dependant on the program where the placement is in.

 

Contact Information:
Amanda Schwartz, RD
Dietitian-in-Chief
(T): 416 535-8501 Ext. 7016
(F): 416 425-7896

 

 

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