A new 90-day pilot project that aims to expand the hours of the mental health transition team to include weekends starts today. Currently, upwards of 330 and 340 people are visiting Royal University Hospital (RUH)’s emergency department on Saturdays and Sundays respectively for psychiatric reasons (e.g., suicide, depression).

Chad Hrynkiw

Social worker Chad Hryniuk is excited to expand his hours to the weekend to help support more clients transition to the community.

During the first phase of the pilot, social worker Chad Hryniuk will spend the next three weeks working from 2 p.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays to provide weekend support to psychiatric clients who visit RUH’s emergency department.

During the week, when psychiatric clients present to the emergency department, a care provider from the mental health transition team (i.e., social worker, community mental health nurse, Saskatoon Housing Coalition support worker) will follow up with the client within 24 hours of discharge to provide education and information about community supports, as well as to ensure the client is safe and receiving the care required (i.e., psychiatric assessment). The team is also available to provide assistance with practical needs such as transportation to pick up medication from the pharmacy.

But on weekends – when psychiatric visits to the Region’s hospital emergency departments are at their highest – these supports have not been available to clients and some are being re-admitted to the hospital as a result.

“We know that any transition in care from hospital to the community is the highest risk time for our clients,” says Tracy Muggli, Director of Mental Health and Addictions Services, Saskatoon Health Region. “If you don’t have a solid plan and continuity of care in place, the client is more likely to have another incident and end up back in hospital, so this bridging of care is critical to their safety and mental health.”

In the present situation, Muggli says some clients are presenting to the emergency department on Friday, and again on Saturday and Sunday because of this gap in care.

“The majority of our clients are adults 18 and over who are either diagnosed with depression or experiencing a crisis in their personal lives that causes suicidal thoughts and leads them to our emergency department,” says Liz Letwiniuk, RN, community mental health nurse with the Region. “For many, it’s their first time visiting the emergency department with a mental health concern, so it can be daunting to return home on a Friday or Saturday night and not have a care provider available to assist with their needs.”

It is anticipated that extending the hours of the transition team to include weekends will both increase patient safety and decrease re-admissions on the weekend and possibly Monday, the third highest day of the week for psychiatric-related visits to RUH’s emergency department. Having the team in place over the weekend will also ensure that patients being discharged from the Dubé Centre on Friday will have access to support on Saturdays and Sundays if required.

For more stories and information about the Better Every Day 14 Day Challenge, visit www.saskatoonhealthregion.ca/news