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Community care in ACTion

St. Joseph’s Assertive Community Treatment teams are on the go, providing care and support to individuals living with persistent mental illness wherever they may be. By Renee Sweeney

t’s 8 am and a team of 11 clinicians is gathering to discuss the needs of the nearly 100 individuals they serve in the community, just as they do each week day morning. These health care professionals are part of ACT 3, one of seven community mental health teams across Southwestern Ontario managed by St. Joseph’s Health Care London. But the office is rarely where you will find these dedicated teams. ACT stands for “Assertive Community Treatment” – a team approach that has been well documented as an effective model of community care for those living with severe and persistent mental illness. The teams are mobile, inter-professional and provide treatment, rehabilitation and support services to clients within community settings. “We like to think of ourselves as a hospital on wheels,” says ACT 3 coordinator Joseph Morgan. “We go to the client wherever they are, whether it’s their home, a shelter or drop-in centre…even if they are currently without a place to live. We provide care anywhere.” ACT teams work together with the client and other community providers to be-


Social worker Susanne Goudswaard, left, visits with ACT 3 client Tobi over coffee each week to discuss and monitor how she’s doing with daily tasks, overall functioning and to intervene should she be experiencing difficulties. Providing side-by-side assistance with daily tasks is also a part of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for all ACT clients. come collaborative partners in the client’s recovery, explains Morgan. “The reality is, some individuals may have to cope with a mental illness for the long-term, often for a lifetime. We treat our clients with dignity and help them gain the skills they need to better manage their illnesses and their lives. We aim to inspire hope and encourage our clients to stay connected with us and their families to continue treatment that will allow them to live independently in the community. We constantly advocate for their needs and are non-judgmental with the choices they make.”

ACT team members are social workers, occupational therapists, nurses and psychiatrists. Depending on individual need, they provide medication support; addiction intervention, monitor physical health and mental functioning, assist with daily living skills, encourage positive lifestyle changes and seek appropriate community resources for their clients. “First and foremost we work to improve the quality of our client’s everyday lives, which is especially important for those who have limited financial means, family support or housing options,” says Morgan.

By building relationships with clients, the ACT model also helps reduce hospital admissions, visits to emergency rooms and crisis scenarios for those with mental illness. For those who do require hospital readmittance, the aim is a reduced average length of stay. “This kind of support,” says Morgan, “makes a huge difference to a great many H people in our community.” ■ Renee Sweeney is a Communications Consultant at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

New policy streamlines patient safety By Maryanne Matthews

hunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) has launched Alert 99, a new policy that addresses the immediate care of any person who requires medical attention or has experienced a collapse and/or trauma within the Health Sciences Centre building. If a person has collapsed in a non-clinical area of the Health Sciences Centre but is responsive, able to communicate and answer questions, an Alert 99 is called. If that same person has experienced an injury, Alert 99 Trauma is called. Both alerts have specified response teams that are trained to address the incident safely and efficiently. “Safety is always our priority here at the Health Sciences Centre and this policy helps to ensure the wellbeing of every person who comes through our doors,” says Jennifer Masiak, Lead for Emergency Planning and Enterprise Risk Management, TBRHSC. Alert 99 encompasses the whole spectrum of incidents from minor slips and falls, to more serious collapses resulting in trauma. It is different from a Code Blue, which is used in cases of cardiac arrest.



Jennifer Masiak, Lead for Emergency Planning and Enterprise Risk Management, Kerry Posselwhite, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Emergency and Trauma Services, and Kendra Walt, Interprofessional Educator, RN, are just a few of the dedicated health professionals from TBRHSC who helped develop and implement Alert 99. “We developed Alert 99 to address collapses or incidences requiring care within non-clinical areas of the hospital,” explains Kerry Posselwhite, Clinical Nurse Specialist for Emergency and Trauma Ser-

vices, TBRHSC. “Rather than calling an unnecessary Code Blue, we wanted to ensure that we were responding in the best way possible, with the most appropriate resources.”

After creating a new hospital wide policy, the next challenge becomes making everyone aware of it – which is not an easy task considering the Health Sciences Centre has nearly 3,000 employees and hundreds of volunteers. “This project was unprecedented for us given the level of awareness that was required by everyone in the hospital,” explains Kendra Walt, Interprofessional Educator, RN, TBRHSC. “Responding personnel such as nurses, security guards, and respiratory therapists were given formal training. The rest of the staff and volunteers were given information packages.” Since the policy was launched on June 29th, four or five calls have been made and all of them have gone very smoothly. “Feedback has been nothing but positive,” says Walt. “Alert 99 has been especially helpful for staff and volunteers who would not normally have received frontline response training. Everyone is happy to now have clear directions on what to do should someone collapse and they can confidently be a part of ensuring safety H within the Health Sciences Centre.” ■

Maryanne Matthews is a Communications Officer at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Profile for Hospital News

Hospital News 2015 November Edition  

Technology in Healthcare, Patient Experience & Hospital Performance Indicators. Special MEDEC Annual Supplement.

Hospital News 2015 November Edition  

Technology in Healthcare, Patient Experience & Hospital Performance Indicators. Special MEDEC Annual Supplement.