New provincial training program for BC health care providers aims to improve care for those with alcohol use disorder

published on August 17, 2020

A new free, virtual training series for BC health care providers aimed at improving knowledge, skills and competencies in managing alcohol use disorder launches this week.

The BC ECHO on Substance Use – Alcohol Use Disorder, offered by the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) in partnership with Doctors of BC, will connect health care providers through a community of practice to build capacity in the treatment and management of alcohol use disorder, with the ultimate goal of improving care. The free virtual program is CME-accredited, and will support uptake of evidence-based approaches to care, as per the new Provincial Guideline for the Clinical Management of High-Risk Drinking and Alcohol Use Disorder, which was release December 2019.

Despite the well-documented prevalence of high-risk drinking and associated harms, especially during COVID-19, alcohol use disorder and high-risk drinking frequently go unrecognized and untreated in the health care system. Using case-based learning, the new community of practice will provide health care providers with the knowledge, skills and competencies to screen, assess and treat patients along the continuum of substance use care, including supporting linkages into psychosocial supports and recovery services. In turn, this will build capacity in the health system, to support British Columbians dealing with high-risk drinking or alcohol use disorder and facilitate connection to services that better suit their needs.

“Alcohol use disorder is the most common substance use disorder in BC and can compound the harms experienced by those who use other substances, like opioids, and intensify the negative effects of other chronic conditions. Left untreated, it can have devastating effects on individuals, families, and our communities,” said Samantha Robinson, interim clinical director at BCCSU. “Unfortunately, evidence-based treatment has not been well-integrated into primary care settings, due in part, to a lack of training among health care providers about how best to manage substance use. The new alcohol use disorder ECHO series will give providers an opportunity to learn with their colleagues, increase knowledge of practical approaches and, hopefully, lead to better outcomes for people with alcohol use disorder.”

Primary care providers are well-positioned to screen and assess for substance use, connect patients to treatment and recovery services, and support relapse prevention. However, many clinicians don’t have experience caring for individuals with alcohol use disorder using the latest evidence-based treatment guidelines.

“The ECHO series, with the support of the General Practice Services Committee, will facilitate training for physicians around the province on evidence-based approaches to high-risk alcohol use,” says Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of BC. “The thousands of doctors across BC are the first point of contact for most patients seeking medical help for their alcohol concerns. It’s imperative we provide those physicians with the knowledge they need to deliver the best care available.”

The new Alcohol Use Disorder ECHO series is part of the BCCSU’s educational and capacity building efforts to support substance use training and education in BC. The BC ECHO on Substance Use is a free, virtual learning community that links primary care providers and their teams to a core interdisciplinary team with expertise in providing substance use care through an interactive, web-based platform. Sessions include didactic presentations by a clinical expert and a case presentation by one of the health care provider participants. Sessions provide an opportunity for networking with a community of providers facing similar challenges, a discussion of relevant real-world cases, and collaboration on recommendations that all can bring back to their practice.

The BC ECHO on Substance Use – Opioid Use Disorder launched last year and is ongoing and free to join.

The first Alcohol Use Disorder ECHO session, Introduction to high-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder in British Columbia, is on Tuesday, August 18 from 12:00pm – 1:00pm.