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A first-of-its-kind in Canada program aims to help British Columbians living with mild to moderate overdose-related brain injuries.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

A program that is the first of its kind in Canada aims to help British Columbians living with mild to moderate overdose-related brain injuries.

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions says the initiative, offered by Vancouver Coastal Health through a multidisciplinary team at Richmond Hospital, has already helped more than 40 people.

A ministry statement says the Cognitive Assessment and Rehabilitation for Substance Use program provides specialized supports for people who use substances including opioids and alcohol.

Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside says a growing number of people are reporting brain injuries after surviving an overdose, especially ones linked to B.C.’s increasingly toxic drug supply.

The statement says by working with psychiatrists, neuropsychologists and occupational therapists, a patient can grasp their new needs and limitations, improving their quality of life while increasing their opportunities for mental health and substance use therapies.

The ministry says the program is part of a $4.5-million, three-year investment for the Brain Injury Alliance to help B.C. patients coping with postinjury challenges, including those resulting from toxic drug poisoning.

Karen Barclay, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Richmond director of mental health and substance use, calls the new service “innovative.”

“Learning about a person’s brain function can be life changing, both for the person with the injury, and for the people who care for them,” Ms. Barclay says in the release.

It says patients in the Vancouver Coastal Health region can speak with their health care provider to access the program or they can self-refer by calling the Richmond Mental Health and Substance Use Services central intake line.

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