The last few months have been an exceedingly challenging time for healthcare professionals – including pharmacy professionals – who have been coping with the many disruptions and hardships that COVID-19 has created while also trying to provide their patients with safe and quality care. The following article is intended to provide registrants with resources to help address concerns they have about their mental health or substance use.
When pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are dealing with mental health and substance use challenges, including addiction, stress, anxiety, depression or other conditions, the College’s goal is to recognize those challenges and support individuals to access the resources they need so that they can practise in a safe manner.
One of the ways that the College has facilitated this support is through a partnership with Lifemark Health to establish a program specifically for pharmacy professionals called the Ontario Pharmacy Health Program. This program can be accessed directly by pharmacy professionals in a confidential manner without involvement from the College.
ONTARIO PHARMACY HEALTH PROGRAM (OPHP)
COMMON QUESTIONS FROM REGISTRANTS
OPHP is an assistance program administered by Lifemark Health offering assessment, case management, and monitoring services on behalf of the College. The program ensures that registrants receive appropriate health recovery and monitoring services and remain in stable recovery thereby allowing them to practise safely. Below are some common questions that pharmacy professionals have about the program.
What services are offered to me?
OPHP offers a variety of services, including information and referrals to specific resources and services, case management services (for example, working with an individual’s healthcare professionals to facilitate treatment programs) and coordination of necessary assessments and monitoring.
When should I consider contacting the program?
There are many reasons you might reach out to the OPHP, including:
- You or a family member are struggling with mental health or substance problems. Although the OPHP does not provide case management services for family members directly, they may be able to assist you in finding resources that could help your family member.
- Your normal mental health supports are not as effective or you need new supports.
- You need help navigating the mental health system.
- Your mental health or substance use is affecting your relationships, work or ability to engage in day to day activities.
Ultimately, it is when you feel that you are overwhelmed, struggling or just need help.
Is a referral needed and what does the intake process look like?
No referral is needed. Once you reach out, you will speak with the OPHP intake team to triage your particular needs and will be directed to appropriate resources. If you need more assistance than a referral to information or resources, then an OPHP case manager will be assigned, and they will speak to you about the services available through the program that may be appropriate for your circumstance. The program is voluntary. Once you receive information from the case manager about the program you may choose to formally enroll in the program.
What are the goals in working with the program?
The goal is to help you to recover to optimal function, including managing your illness and engaging in your home life, family, community and practice in positive ways.
Is participation in the program confidential?
You may access this program directly and remain anonymous to the College. Access may also be facilitated by the College in limited circumstances (i.e. as part of a formal health inquiry). Information is only shared with the College by OPHP with your consent.
Can the service be accessed anywhere in Ontario?
Yes. The OPHP has a network that includes resources throughout the province as well as virtual options. If there is not an established relationship in your location, then the OPHP will work with you to locate appropriate services.
How do I access the OPHP?
Visit the Ontario Pharmacy Health Program website, call 1-844-931-0007 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE COLLEGE’S APPROACH TO SUPPORTING REGISTRANTS
Registrants may be concerned that if they (or others, such as employers) inform the College that they are experiencing health challenges that may be affecting their practice, they will experience disciplinary consequences. However, the College’s inquiries into a registrant’s health are conducted differently from the way the College investigates competence or conduct, recognizing the need for a supportive approach while protecting the public.
If the College starts a health inquiry (i.e. an investigation where the College has reason to believe that a registrant may be incapacitated), it may involve an independent medical examination, but may be resolved without resorting to a full fitness to practise hearing (where the Fitness to Practise Committe holds a hearing to determine whether a registrant is incapacitated and whether any limitations should be imposed on their certificate of registration). For example, the College may be satisfied if the registrant enrolls in an appropriate monitoring program with Lifemark Health, or a suitable alternative agreement involving ongoing treatment and monitoring, to ensure that the registrant’s recovery is supported and the public is protected.
Employers must also support employees to practise in a safe manner, which could include referring employees to appropriate resources, such as the Ontario Pharmacy Health Program. Employers are also reminded that they have a mandatory duty to report to the College any termination of employment or revocation, suspension or imposition of restrictions on the privileges of a registrant due to incapacity. This reporting is intended to protect patients, but also identify pharmacy professionals who may benefit from additional support.
Registrants or employers who are unsure about reporting potential incapacity due to mental health or substance use can reach out to the College’s Intakes team to discuss their obligations and options at 1-800-220-1921.
Ultimately, the College encourages pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to reach out for support early, so as to take good care of themselves and their families, while also upholding their commitment to provide safe and quality care for their patients.
COVID-19 SPECIFIC MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
- Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences – Healthcare Worker Assist
- CAMH – Mental Health Resources and Referrals for Healthcare Workers
- Mental Health Commission of Canada – COVID-19 Resources
- Canadian Mental Health Association – COVID-19 and Mental Health
GENERAL MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
- Crisis Services Canada – 1-833-456-4566. Suicide prevention and support
- Distress and Crisis Ontario – Locate a local distress centre
- Addictions and Mental Health Ontario – 1-866-531-2600. Information and support with a mental health or addiction crisis
- BounceBack Ontario – Free skill-building program to manage depression, anxiety, stress and worry
- Wellness Together Canada – Toolkit providing mental health and substance use support.