A hospital without walls: Delivering quality care closer to home

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According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in every five Canadians will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives. In addition to coping with the diagnosis and treatment, most individuals will face the stigma and discrimination attached with having a mental illness. In keeping with its mandate to deliver quality care closer to home, Southlake Regional Health Centre’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program helps adults with persistent mental illnesses to overcome these barriers and receive effective treatment and appropriate care outside of a hospital environment.

With offices located in Georgina, approximately 30 km north of Southlake’s main Newmarket campus, the program provides patients and their families with a wide variety of support, education and rehabilitation in areas of psychiatric evaluation, occupational therapy, individual, behavioural and family counseling, and vocational rehabilitation.

“What makes ACT unique is the holistic, multidisciplinary approach,” says Dr. Michael Brennagh, psychiatrist. “As a team, we all work towards the common goal of helping to improve the quality of life for our patients.”

“Most of our services (75 per cent) are provided in a community setting and are comparable to the services patients receive when hospitalized,” says Jody Levac, Clinical Manager. “Whether it’s in their home or at a coffee shop, we tailor our services to meet the various environments we work in.”

In recognition of the significant contributions that Southlake’s ACT program has made since it first opened in 1999, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recently increased the program’s funding by over $400,000.

This has enabled the program to hire more full-time staff, which has allowed them to increase their client base from 60 to 80 and to expand the program’s service area from Georgina in the north to Newmarket in the south. In addition, a new psycho-geriatric focus will be introduced, thereby enabling the team to offer services to individuals over 60 years of age.

“The decision to increase our funding was in large part due to the hard work of our dedicated team,” says Jody. “Each and every member of our team is passionate about their job and without their commitment to go that extra mile for our patients, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

The support from Southlake’s Inpatient Mental Health Program and the Chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Rasiah Paramsothy, has also helped grow the service. Many of our patients are referred and identified to us following their admission to hospital.”

Through the program, each client is assessed on an individual, case-by-case basis. The team works with each person to identify a treatment and rehabilitation goal that is achievable and realistic based on his or her ability and need. Originating in the late 1960s, the ACT model of care has been widely implemented in the United States, Canada and England. Recent research indicates that this type of service delivery has a significant impact on the individual’s life. Clients experience low hospital admission, allowing them to spend more time in independent living situations, and experience more positive social relationships. There are currently over 90 ACT programs in the Province of Ontario, of which two are located in York Region and operated by Southlake Regional Health Centre.

Additional information about Southlake’s ACT program and its team can be found at www.southlakeregional.org or by calling 905-476-1800.