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COLUMN: A blooming good idea

The Bloom Program. This is the mental health and addictions community pharmacy partnership that has been developed in Nova Scotia.

A regular column from MLA Leo Glavine

I was very pleased to have this initiative presented to Federal Health Minister Doctor Jane Philpott on a recent visit to our province. The main purpose of her visit was to discuss with me how our province will invest the mental health and home-care dollars we will receive over the next 10 years from the Health Accord. She went away impressed by the Bloom Program and will work to see it advanced across the country.

The Bloom Program is one mental health initiative that should also expand beyond the 23 pharmacies currently enrolled. This program comes under the Department of Health and has a governance model of a steering committee, an administrator and the support of an "implementation team.” Outstanding work has been done Bloom Program developers David Gardner, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University and Andrea Murphy, Associate Professor in the College of Pharmacy at Dalhousie University.

The local pharmacy--what an ideal place to have engagement, in support of those with mental health issues. It is another service well suited to re-visioning the purpose of the community pharmacy. It provides a health service that draws people to it for health reasons and meets several other needs. The pharmacist is an onsite professional that can identify and respond to health and medication needs of their patients. We are all aware of how they support health promotion policies and programs designed for disease prevention, wellness and diagnosis of minor ailments. The Bloom Program requires an emerging or established pharmacist - patient relationship that goes well beyond the usual customer relationship. A significant advantage for a pharmacy to deliver mental health support is the fact that there are 300 pharmacies in the province and 80 per cent of Nova Scotians live within five km of a pharmacy. The Bloom Program requires patient and pharmacy eligibility so that high quality is the sustainable hallmark.

Eligibility criteria is intentionally a wide spectrum to ensure that the service is available to all who can benefit from it. High priority diagnoses are psychoses, depressive and anxiety disorders, bipolar and related disorders, as well as trauma. Other disorders include eating, sleep- wake, neurodevelopmental and substance use. This program also deals with medication therapy issues. The diagnoses were selected due to their known overall disease burden and the challenges associated with medication treatments.

The program aims to enroll about 70 per cent of patients with high priority diagnoses and 30 per cent with other diagnoses. The time period for most patients to be enrolled in the Bloom Program is six months. Half of the meetings deal with medication related issues and 50 per cent other needs. A few of the major findings of the program to date are: 4 in 5 health and medication issues were fully resolved or improved, access to mental health care in rural areas was improved and patients who were not receiving care, became engaged.

The Bloom Program is offered by pharmacies that have engaged and maintained relationships with existing local and regional mental health services. 70 pharmacists at the 23 bloom sites have averaged 65 hours on outreach activities before offering the program. I think this program provides the community with an essential service that has been missing up until now. This program is another way of expanding a person’s circle of care, from an extremely trustworthy source. Kudos to Chisholm's Pharmacy in Aylesford for offering the Bloom Program; it is making a real difference.



Leo Glavine is the MLA for Kings West.

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