Meeting people where they are

A new way to deliver great care

Many people across BC are without secure access to affordable and appropriate housing. CHCs like Cool Aid Community Health Centre in Downtown Victoria exist to address the fall-out of a society that is not set up to ensure that there is a roof over everyone’s head. Check out Part 1 of this blog series to find out more about how Cool Aid brings together housing, health services, and other supports to create a wrap-around approach to caring for marginalized populations.

This summer, Cool Aid announced the addition of a new mechanism of care to their multidisciplinary model. Five days a week, their new mobile clinic visits shelters and housing support sites, bringing nurses, social workers, and physicians to those without housing security.

“There are a lot of people in Victoria who have a real difficulty accessing traditional health care and so this will allow us to reach those people,” says clinical nurse leader Karen Lundgren. (CTV News, 07/07/2021)

Recent reports estimate that over 1,500 individuals experience homelessness in Greater Victoria on any given night. A range of services are available to them through the mobile clinic, from primary care appointments to filling prescriptions, screenings and testing, and support for opioid therapy access.

As noted by the Times Colonist  (07/08/2021), “Until recently, health outreach workers for Victoria Cool Aid Society who wanted to see their homeless patients had to go on foot, with all of their supplies on their backs”.

The van represents a more sustainable way of reaching patients that meets unhoused people where they are instead of straining their limited resources.

Candide Dias, Cool Aid outreach coordinator, told Victoria News “At Cool Aid, we’re very inclusive and welcoming, but people might not know that. So if we come to them where they are, it’s a lot more comfortable for them.”


Value of outreach work

There are clear benefits to closing the distance between healthcare and people with complex mental and physical needs. But the model does more than offer proximity. Care providers who work in the clinic are also trauma-informed.

“By going to our clients instead of asking them to come to us, we get to step into their world and see the many barriers and challenges they are facing that may not be apparent when meeting with them in a more clinical setting,” said Robyn Kyle, Cool Aid Health outreach worker, in an interview with Victoria Buzz.

This is only the beginning. Cool Aid has high hopes for expanding services beyond what is currently available through the van. The vision for this model is to have a robust team offering primary care, harm reduction services, and mental health support free of charge.

“This initiative has already helped so many people who were not accessing traditional medical care but who were in urgent need,” said Mary Chudley, director of health and support services for Cool Aid. “With the mobile clinic, we are able to provide the kind of real connection and continuity that ultimately leads to better patient outcomes.”

Part of the funding for the program  was provided by Telus Health for Good, and the electronic records onboard help multidisciplinary teams keep patient information organized over time. Through a model that brings the clinic to patients, housing insecurity isn’t an impediment to quality care.

Congratulations Cool Aid!


Photos provided by Cool Aid CHC