KAWARTHA LAKES-A growing group of community health partners has been providing mobile outreach services to the most vulnerable in our community since February.
Officials say since the start of the mobile outreach hub there have been over 800 visits, supporting numerous individuals by providing support including primary care and paramedicine, mental health services, harm reduction or substance use support, housing and homelessness support and food security.
It’s a collaborative effort with a variety of organizations who committed to providing outreach services including Ross Memorial Hospital – Mental Health Crisis Outreach Supports, the John Howard Society – Harm Reductions and other Addiction Support Services, local paramedics, community counselling resources, the health unit, Elizabeth Fry Society, PARN, ODSP and more.
“City staff would like to acknowledge the commitment and collaboration that the above community partners have demonstrated over the last several months by supporting vulnerable residents through the mobile outreach hub initiative.” said the City.
Establishing a mobile outreach hub allowed these service providers to go directly to those in need and provide “low-barrier, wrap-around support”, meeting their most complex and urgent needs.
The locations for the mobile outreach hub were identified by partners as locations often visited by these underserved residents. The locations chosen were A Place Called Home on Lindsay Street South, 68 Lindsay Street North and 111 William Street in Lindsay. Beginning in February 2023 various staff attended twice a week during two-hour outreach hub gatherings, typically occurring throughout a two-week rotation.
Officials say the initiative provides better care and better value of service by way of avoiding emergency department visits, unnecessary 911 calls, inappropriate admission of acute care beds (those that require an alternate level of care) and increased access to primary care for those who don’t have a doctor.
Council heard about an elderly female in Lindsay who received care from the mobile unit. There was some concern ranging from the condition of her apartment which included disorganization, unsanitary as well as the responsiveness of the tenant. The tenant had been confined both physically and mentally in one of the buildings the group attends on a regular basis.
They were able to connect directly with service providers in person immediately after concerns came to their attention.
“As a team, an immediate action plan was put into place that included an emergency plan as the tenant is often not well enough to get up and answer the door. The community paramedic team and mental health nurse from Ross Memorial Hospital attended and together they were able to diagnose a few simple problems,” said Autumn Campbell, Kawartha Lakes Paramedics. “They were able to do a urine dip and she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. (UTI) With pharmacists now being able to prescribe antibiotics for UTI’s a call was made and antibiotics obtained and a trip to the ER was avoided. On following up with this patient a few weeks later the community paramedic noticed a marked difference in the responsiveness of the patient, the cleanliness of the unit as well as an increase in her mobility.”
As a result of the success of the mobile outreach hub in Lindsay, staff have worked with community partners in the County of Haliburton to establish a mobile hub. Starting in June 2023, a mobile hub is offering wrap-around services to individuals in Minden and Haliburton. Future planning is already underway to also reach other outlying communities such as Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon. Councillor Mike Perry urged the group to make a hub in Fenelon Falls a priority as soon as possible saying “There has been an increase in physical homelessness in Fenelon Falls since the spring.”
Expanding on the success of the mobile outreach hub the group told council, sitting as Committee of the Whole, that the opportunity has arisen to utilize new provincial government homelessness prevention funding to support a permanent integrated care hub in Lindsay.
City staff, along with other community partners, attended the Kingston Integrated Care Hub in July. The Kingston Integrated Care Hub provides 24/7 low-barrier and wrap-around services for those who face restrictions in accessing emergency shelters and other community services. The main services offered at the Kingston Integrated Care Hub are:
- Consumption and treatment services
- Rest zone
- Harm reduction supports and supplies
- Primary care services
- First aid and wound care
- Mental health and addictions supports
- Scheduled activities and events
- Peer support employment training opportunities
- Other services, including referrals to other community programs, including Ontario Works and housing
Other integrated care hubs also exist in Ottawa, Windsor and Oshawa and will serve as models to learn from and inform planning here according to the staff report presented to council.
The main objectives of an integrated care hub in Kawartha Lakes would be to provide low-barrier resting areas, seven days-a-week drop-in space to support wrap-around service delivery and the potential for consumption and treatment services according to the group.
The city staff report found the City’s current supportive housing programs and existing emergency shelter model do not meet the level of service needed, given the demand, to support the most vulnerable. They say having a low-barrier location, open 7 days a week and offering multi-disciplinary support will significantly help our community to address some basic and urgent health needs.
In order for the vision to come to fruition, additional building space and/or additional property is needed for this expansion according to the group. In order for this to occur, capital investment is required to secure the purchase of space to be renovated for the establishment of a hub in Lindsay.
The group is asking the City for $700,000 to purchase a space for the hub and provide ongoing operational funding. This City is looking to tap into additional funding from the province through the Homelessness Prevention Program to accommodate the request. Council will discuss and vote on it at the next meeting.
This story has been updated to clarify that the city would be tapping into funding it gets from the province.