It has been another busy year at Somerset West Community Health Centre. We are proud to be part of a group of leaders improving pathways to health and social services.
In 2019-2020, we focused on making it easier to access our services. In fall 2019, we increased hours at our Primary Care and Ottawa Newcomer Clinic. We increased outreach through our harm reduction services. We also brought primary care and social services directly to clients living in rooming houses.
Alongside our commitment to access, we continue to use a health equity lens in our work. In December 2019, we published our Anti-Racism Community Conversations report. In March 2020, we worked with a group of partners to get the City of Ottawa to declare its first Black Mental Health Day.
We also embarked on an exciting journey to making Dalhousie Community Centre a community hub.
Of course, everything changed in mid-March 2020.
When the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) came to Ottawa, we pivoted our services. We learned whole new and innovative ways to connect with our clients and community.
Using phones and videoconferencing, we brought our services into people’s homes. We connected our ethnocultural seniors through group social calls. We started online wellness and exercise classes. We held zoom circle time activities for kids. We created new networks for people to access mental health supports. By the end of April, we had more than 45 virtual services available to our community. Many of these services continue today.
We are grateful for our strong network of partners and funders. Together, we brought hot meals and fresh food to seniors, families, and people experiencing homelessness. We were also instrumental in establishing a respite Centre at McNabb Community Centre. This gave homeless and street involved people access to showers, washrooms and support services.
The pandemic has had a bigger impact on people that are already at-risk. Many are facing more than one crisis. We have actively called for the collection of race-based and socio-demographic data so we can focus on those that need urgent support.
We continue working with our partners to respond to Ottawa’s housing and homelessness emergency, a worsening opioid crisis, and anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism. These are systemic challenges. We are firmly committed to fighting inequity and oppression in all its forms. We have had a strong presence in the media advocating for system change.
Thank you to our staff and volunteers for your tremendous support and dedication! None of this would be possible without you.
We support people and communities to enjoy the best possible health and well-being.
A healthy, diverse and inclusive community for all.
CHAIR Michel Frojmovic
VICE-CHAIR Jennifer Hartell
SECRETARY Iman Mohamed
TREASURER Chad Meda
BOARD DIRECTORS Carole Saab Andrew Burdeniuk Arlo Litman Danielle Massé Francis Nolan-Poupart Hanaa Dwidar Janice Meisner Nimao Ali Stacy Douglas Ryan Seid Thi Bach Mai Nguyen
We expanded hours for Primary Care services. We offered more hours at our walk-in clinic, Ottawa Newcomer Health Clinic, and Seniors Outreach. We also launched a nurse practitioner-led Opioid Agonist Treatment Clinic.
186 Complex Respiratory Care clients received a home visit by a Respiratory Therapist. 9 of our clients transitioned from hospital to home.
Our Multicultural Navigation Program presented at the Pathways to Prosperity National Conference. More than 450 people attended.
We piloted a mental health outreach project for the African, Caribbean, and Black community.
We introduced culturally-appropriate mental health support services for the Chinese community. We provide this in partnership with the Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre.
We played a leadership role in establishing March 2, 2020, as Ottawa’s first Black Mental Health Day.
We started the Drug Overdose Prevention and Education Response team. They provide after-hours outreach in the Centretown, Carlington and Somerset West neighbourhoods.
Our Consumption and Treatment Service served close to 700 clients last year. We reversed 479 overdoses with 0 deaths. Less than 4% of overdoses required a trip to the Emergency department.
We received funding to create a community-led anti-racism action plan. This initiative builds on the work of our Anti-Racism Community Conversations Report.
We engaged 45 community members in our Peers Helping Peers program. This includes clients of the Yet Keen Seniors’ Day Centre and residents of Rochester Heights and Mechanicsville.
Nanny Goat Hill Nursery School expanded to a full day Headstart program.
We provided a healthy meal to our After School Program participants 5 days per week. This was made possible through partnership with Parkdale Food Centre and Meal Share.
We expanded our EarlyON services and became a main site for the Ottawa Centre area.
Our Social Services Walk-in received a referral from one of our physicians about their client, WJ, a mother with young children whose husband had just died unexpectedly. She was new to Canada, spoke no English and was naturally very scared and overwhelmed. She told our staff that she did not know how to continue with her life at that point. SWCHC staff from across different departments were able to work together to provide wrap-around supports to this family, all in a linguistically and culturally-tailored way. A Mandarinspeaking Community Support Worker was able to do home visits, help her apply for financial benefits and offer on-going practical support. Staff from the Children, Family and Youth team helped her find care and supports for her young children. Community nurses helped with translation for her and her children during their visits to the clinics. WJ was also able to get counselling in Mandarin related to parenting and grief. In her words:
“At times I am thinking, if without this help from SWCHC in terms of culture and language, what life would my children and I have had? I am so thankful for SWCHC, not only for their services to the Chinese community, but also the overall services they are providing for me and my family, including doctors and Walk-in clinics nurses. They are all so warm, kind, sympathetic, and supportive”.
This is a prime example of the Community Health Care model of care at its best – providing a range of integrated supports including, but not limited to, community-based primary care. This ensures that clients can access the right supports at the right time, in a way that is accessible and integrated, all under one roof.
As the overdose epidemic continued to evolve this past year, so too did our Harm Reduction Department. After implementing the Supervised Consumption & Treatment Service the year previous, this past year saw the expansion of the department, adding programs in Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT); Drug Overdose Prevention, Education & Response (DOPE Response); and a Harm Reduction Peer Worker expansion project at two sister-CHCs. In one year, we grew by 20 new staff, with 85% of those staff identifying as people with lived or living experience of substance use, and 70% in positions dedicated to people who identify themselves as peers, called Community Workers. The additional Community Workers hired during 2019-20 brought our total organizational number of Community Workers to over 25 and counting.
We have been able to embed Community Worker roles in every one of our substance use harm reduction services. From the Needle Exchange & Safer Inhalation Drop-In that led the way with our first Community Workers, to the DOPE Response Team which is a team entirely comprised of Community Workers who provide nightly foot outreach to the Somerset, Centretown and Carlington catchment areas. Having workers who are persons with lived or living experience and are also peers has been transformational for our clients, staff, teams and organization.
Our Community Workers have brought an integrity to the work that the Centre could never hope to achieve without them. The insights, expertise and skill that they bring is exceptional, and the ability for teams to tailor services to the needs of our clients has been unprecedented. It has been an invaluable and transformational experience for the organization to not only hire Community Workers, but also practice continuous improvement through ensuring that our systems, policies and practices truly embody the tenants of allyship, representation, health equity and anti-oppression that we hold so dearly as crucial to individual and community health. This is only possible thanks to the meaningful, bravely honest and dedicated engagement of our Community Workers in the life and work of our Centre. The opportunity to walk the road of representational service delivery with, by and for people who use drugs is an honour, and one that the Centre continues to learn and grow from.
The guidance and contributions of our Community Workers has not only transformed our teams and organization, but it has been transformational for clients and workers themselves. This past year we saw for the first time Community Workers hired on who had previously been clients of the Centre. Not only has that journey been affirming the principles of harm reduction-based recovery and anti-oppression, but it has given tremendous encouragement to our service user community.
We have seen countless congratulations offered to peers who have obtained jobs – of service users sharing not only joy, but hope. Hope that their drug use and criminalization might not continue to be the employment barriers they had previously experienced them to be. The hopeful refrain of our service users, as they tentatively ask for job applications: “If s/he can do this work, I think I can too”.
When sitting with one of our Community Workers recently, he was congratulated on the wonderful work and leadership he was demonstrating in his job, and he was told he was a star employee.
“I’ve never been called that before”, he replied. “I always thought that by this age, I’d be in jail or be dead”.
He had just participated in an interview panel for a new community worker.