During National Addictions Awareness Week, which runs from November 18 to 24, Portage is seeking to raise awareness about the co-occurrence of mental health problems and substance abuse, a problem that has grown on a worldwide scale by 38% between 1990 and 2010 .
In Canada, the costs of this problem in terms of loss of productivity are estimated at approximately $33 billion per year .
Though 50% of people who abuse drugs also suffer from mental health problems, all too often they are treated for only one of these issues at a time. In Canada, more than 35% of psychiatric inpatients between the ages of 15 to 65  suffer from both mental health problems and addiction. Not only is their stay 19% longer than the average, but these patients are 25% more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within one year of discharge.
Caring for people suffering from both mental health problems and substance abuse is difficult, and the high rate of recurrence is straining the healthcare system. These patients have very complex needs, which is why it’s so important to provide them with integrated services that can address both issues at the same time.
Since 1995, Portage’s Mentally Ill Chemical Abusers (MICA) Program has been doing just that. Previously supported by the private sector and now by the Government of Québec, this residential drug rehabilitation program helps men suffering from both mental illness (primarily schizophrenia) and substance abuse, treating the two disorders as well as their interaction.
Given the financial impact that this clientele has on the healthcare system, funding for such programs is critical. The costs of treatment are minor compared to those generated by multiple visits to the emergency room when these people are in crisis.
Upon completion of the MICA Program, graduates have not only overcome their substance abuse problem, but have also learned how to better manage their mental illness, so that they may reintegrate back into society as productive citizens.
Portage is working to ensure that this program will continue to be offered to Quebecers for years to come.
In honour of National Addictions Awareness Week, Portage would like to thank all those who support us in our mission, to acknowledge our dedicated staff members, and to highlight the courage of our MICA residents who work hard every day to overcome their substance abuse issues, while dealing with mental illness.
Peter Vamos, Executive Director, Portage
 Canadian Institute for Health Information – Hospital Mental Health Services for Concurrent Mental Illness and Substance Use Disorders in Canada, updated May 2013.