Mental Health

Mental Health, Substance Use and HIV/AIDS/HCV Provincial Advisory Committee

The MHSU AC is an initiative that began in 2008 when the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) of BC retained a consultant (Carlene Dingwall) to conduct a province-wide needs assessment on the mental health needs of people living with HIV/AIDS/HCV. It was a first step response to anecdotal evidence provided by community based organizations working with people who are living with HIV/AIDS/HCV. This initial data indicated that the mental health needs of people living with HIV/AIDS are being compromised by existing gaps and barriers and ineffective services across the whole continuum of mental health support systems. Moreover, knowledge about the scope and range of the mental health conditions was largely unknown on a provincial basis.

The needs assessment entitled Trap Doors: Revolving Doors: A Discussion Paper details the prevalence rates of mental health conditions of people living with HIV/AIDS/HCV (PWAs) accessing services from community-based AIDS organizations (ASOs). The report details the burden of care for ASOs and the frustration experienced by community workers at the enormous need for mental health supports and the lack of access to these services.

PHSA distributed Trap Doors: Revolving Doors: A Discussion Paper across the province to ASOs, BCMHAS and Public Health as a means to initiate further dialogue. In September 2008, a small strategic working group was assembled to discuss establishing a provincial working group that could identify strategic action items that could be addressed in the short-term and to outline the potential for a sustainable framework to address mental health and HIV/AIDS/HCV at a community, regional and provincial level. This initial group identified potential participants and targeted invitations went out to selected members. In November, 2008 the MHAC had its first in a series of meetings.

The outcome of the MHAC was the development of the five following strategic priorities:

1. To build the capacity of frontline workers in community based ASOs to provide mental health first aid to their clients/members

2. To increase the capacity of BC Mental Health and Addictions Services (BCMHAS) to provide mental health supports to PWAs and those at risk for HIV/HCV

3. Enhance knowledge exchange about mental health and HIV/AIDS/HCV

4. Target research activities toward expanding knowledge in key areas

5. Identifying and targeting resources toward identified priority actions


PAN has been contracted for 2011.2012 to provide project management for the MHAC.  It is PAN’s distinct pleasure to be fulfilling this role of supporting the MHAC.

To find out what is going on with the MHAC, please visit our updates page here.


For more information about the Mental Health, Substance Use, HIV & HCV Advisory Committee, please contact Carlene Dingwall at [email protected]


  Pacific AIDS Network would like to thank the Provincial Health Services Authority for funding this work