COVID-19 has significantly impacted those in our community who face housing, financial, and/or mental health and addictions challenges. The pandemic response led to closures of critical services, leaving gaps in care at a time when they were needed most. The impact of the pandemic led the AOHT’s organizational members to accelerate work focused on these affected community members by launching the Community Wellness Bus (CWB) in just a few short months. Throughout continuous uncertainty in this pandemic, the CWB has remained committed to making a difference one day and one client at a time.
“As many of the clients we serve struggle accessing virtual services, it was determined that a consistent, in-person mobile outreach solution would need to be implemented if we were going to continue this important work in the community.”
- Cami Coutu, CWB Co-Lead and Program Supervisor at Canadian Mental Health Association Algoma (CMHA Algoma)
Launched in Spring of 2021, the CWB is a mobile outreach model of care that aims to meet people where they are. The CWB provides easier access to health and social services, improves health outcomes, and reduces gaps in mental health and addictions care. Health and social service professionals such as registered nurses, peer workers, and anti-human trafficking workers hop on the decommissioned ambulance four days a week to visit locations around the city where services are needed most. The CWB offers onsite medical assessments, basic necessities, harm reduction supplies, peer support, and support for appropriate health and social service referrals for clients.
The CWB follows a regular schedule that fosters trust, relationship building, and continuous support. Additionally, it expands its schedule when necessary to meet the needs of those in our community. In response to rising community transmission of COVID-19, the CWB recently expanded its service locations.
“Homelessness is a big concern for our community. When two motels offering emergency housing received an influx of people isolating with COVID-19 or transitioning into being housed, we were able to add daily visits to these motels to the CWB schedule to help serve clients, support staff onsite, and build relationships with clients in order to better serve them,” said Cami Coutu.
“Our clients really appreciated having us there. We supplied them with harm reduction supplies and basic needs such as water, snacks, and hygiene products; but above all, we gave them someone to talk to. Having someone to relate to and support them through trying times is invaluable for our clients."
- Darren Emond, Certified Peer Worker at CMHA Algoma
The CWB serves approximately 650 clients each month and it won’t stop there. With the team keeping the bus staffed and stocked and the outpouring of support from community donations, the CWB is working to ensure that no one is left behind. The CWB is an important piece of the puzzle along the continuum of community-based services for mental health and addictions care. Even on the darkest of days throughout this pandemic, the CWB is a glimmer of hope for brighter days ahead for our community members. At the end of each day, we are all in this together.
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