June 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic caused many Hospitals like St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton to temporarily close some out-patient programs or to find new ways of delivering care. While virtual visits via video or phone chat have worked well for some patient groups, many individuals living with Schizophrenia rely upon regular bloodwork and injections of medication to maintain optimal mental health. For some who cannot access these essential services at the Hospital and who are potentially at risk or whose progress on their journey of recovery may be hampered, St. Joe’s found a way to bring mental health care right to their doorstep.

The Schizophrenia & Community Integration Service’s team at the West 5th Campus has rented a small, accessible bus complete with a driver, from Voyager. The bus currently travels to group homes, lodges and patient residences across Hamilton and Brantford, providing bloodwork and medical injections to over 145 patients (so far) who are part of the outpatient/outreach programs. Launched at the end of April, staffed by registered nurses, and sanitized between each patient visit, the bus operates Tuesday to Friday each week.

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Photo Caption: Van driver Jim McGuire stands to the left of Robert Biba and Terry O’Connor, registered nurses at St. Joe’s. The van acts as a mobile clinic to serve patients, mainly people living with schizophrenia.

While start-up funding for the van was scraped together from departmental savings, Alycia Gillespie, Manager of the Schizophrenia Outpatient Clinic at St. Joe’s, says her program only had enough funding to run the mobile clinic for approximately 10 weeks. But thanks to a new $50,000 grant from the Hamilton Community Foundation, the mobile clinic now has funding for six months of operation.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the Hamilton Community Foundation for this generous donation,” says Gillespie. “While the mobile clinic continues to play an important role in providing services to clients during COVID-19, we’re also learning this mobile service model could have a significantly positive impact beyond the pandemic for our clients who require ongoing outreach. With this van, we’re able to come to them, to help them maintain their medication compliance and receive the care they need, when and where they need it most.”

The $50,000 donation was generously provided by the Hamilton Community Foundation’s Pandemic Response Fund, which was established to support frontline charities delivering critical services to vulnerable populations in Hamilton affected by quarantine, closures, shortages, access to services, loss of income or other economic factors.

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