MESSAGE FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR & BOARD CHAIRPERSON
The year 20/21 proved to be a year of unprecedented challenges for SWCHC and the communities that we serve. We are proud of how we have worked collaboratively with our clients, communities, and partners to respond to four public health crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, housing & homelessness, racism, and the opioid epidemic.
Throughout the pandemic, we have worked hard to ensure clients get connected to the essential care they need. COVID forced us to pivot the delivery of our services to include virtual care, telephone outreach, remote working, and online social and education programs. We increased support to clients in their homes, delivered food, and provided them with technology. We continued vital services to keep people healthy and out of the hospital through our primary care outreach and our regional lung health program, and we introduced new services like an on-site COVID-19 testing clinic.
The pandemic has highlighted structural and systemic inequities and barriers to health and social services that existed before COVID-19, particularly for racialized communities. The widespread understanding that Black communities lack safety, support, and culturally targeted mental health services, drove us to create a mental health program provided for and by the African, Caribbean, and Black community, and supported the advancement of the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition.
The opioid overdose crisis worsened during the pandemic. Ottawa reported record numbers of opioid-related deaths, emergency calls, and hospitalizations. Our life-saving Harm Reduction services have remained open throughout the pandemic and have supported clients with the many challenges they face including stigmatization, food insecurity, precarious housing and increased medical risks associated with the poisonous drug supply and COVID-19.
Thank you to our community and our partners for being part of this journey. We are grateful for the unwavering support of our Councillors Catherine McKenney and Jeff Leiper, Ottawa Public Health, Ottawa Local Integration Partnership, and the Ottawa Health Team. We would also like to extend thanks to the City of Ottawa, the Champlain LHIN, Ontario Trillium Foundation, United Way, and the Ottawa Community Foundation for providing funds to respond to our communities’ needs.
None of this would have been possible without the commitment of our staff, board, and volunteers, and the principles of health equity and our mission. We continue to walk the talk. We will leave you with a quote from the great Leonard Cohen – "there's a crack in everything, and that is how the light gets in." This year we let the light in. Thank you.
Naini Cloutier, Executive Director, and Jennifer Hartell, Chairperson
REMEMBERING CARL REINBOTH
We mourn the tragic loss of Carl Reinboth, a highly respected, long-standing member of our harm reduction team who died in April 2021. Carl was a community leader, a fierce advocate, and someone who our clients and community trusted. Though we mourn his passing, we will continue to keep his spirit alive through the work he did every day with such passion and commitment. Carl believed in showing up for the things that he cared about, and that legacy will remain with the Centre and the work that we do.
OUR PANDEMIC RESPONSE
The pandemic has exposed the structural forces that marginalize communities. We responded by:
Delivering 44,225 meals to 5,800 people. The value of all food provided during COVID was $352,125.
Hosting 1,560 virtual groups, activities, workshops, including parent support groups, seniors exercise, mental health groups, telephone outreach, and tax clinics.
Supporting families by keeping our Headstart program open for in-person childcare and introducing 23 weekly virtual playgroups and multiple workshops available in four different languages. We also launched a Youtube channel that has more than 25,000 video views.
Providing outreach, food support, and COVID-related information through the Rochester Heights Community House.
Facilitating more than 1,300 outreach calls, 250 hours of technical support and coaching, and created a network of peer support among our Yet Keen Seniors.
Providing 7,065 COVID-19 tests in the community through an on-site testing clinic and mobile testing.
Increasing access to public health information by working with partners to outreach to immigrant communities, including working in partnership with the Ottawa Health Team & Ottawa Public Health to produce a multilingual video encouraging individuals to get tested for COVID-19.
Collaborating with the Ottawa Health Team to support newcomer families with wraparound care and support after they have tested positive for COVID-19, including access to food, housing, income supports, and more.
Distributing free tablets, laptops, Chromebooks, SIM cards and mobile phones to 250 clients to keep them connected to their care providers and communities.
Providing emergency financial assistance to individuals who are without status to assist with shelter, isolation support, and food insecurity.
Providing high-quality, low-barrier primary health care in virtual appointments, same-day appointments with Nurse Practitioners and in-person appointments. Complex Respiratory Care continued to provide in-home care.
Deploying our Respiratory Therapists to the frontlines of COVID testing at the Brewer Assessment Centre from March - July.
Partnering with the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists to create the first e-learning module on Considerations for Respiratory Therapy Outreach during Covid-19 from a primary care perspective.
Advocating at the client, city, and provincial level to stop evictions, provide rent relief, and better options for people that are homeless
Primary Care Response
The Primary Care Team was able to modify service delivery to ensure clients continued to receive high quality care through a combination of face to face and virtual care. Our Primary Care and Seniors Outreach teams conducted targeted wellness visits to isolated seniors during the initial lockdown and where appropriate shifted to virtual delivery of programs such as seniors exercise and health workshops. They also engaged volunteers who were able to do phone check-ins with seniors, as well as organize and lead the delivery of hundreds of meals to vulnerable seniors. Our outreach Nurse Practitioners have been providing COVID testing and home visits to those who faced barriers to travelling to Assessment Centres, and are now providing vaccines as part of a targeted mobile approach. Our Primary Care Outreach team began operating a COVID Testing Clinic as part of the collaborative Ottawa Health Team COVID Community Response to make testing and wrap-around supports more accessible to clients most at-risk. Many members across the Primary Health Care team continue to be involved in low barrier vaccination efforts across the city.
Lung Health Response
During the early days of the pandemic, the Respiratory Therapists from the Lung Health Program were redeployed to the Brewer Park COVID Assessment Centres 7 days a week. Their skills and leadership were recognized by colleagues from The Ottawa Hospital and other partner organizations. The Respiratory Therapy Staff were later involved in educating primary care teams within other Community Health Centres that were preparing to begin on-site Covid Testing within their site. Pulmonary Services were able to continue by rapidly changing the delivery model to include virtual rehab. The Complex Respiratory Care Program remained essential throughout the pandemic supporting ventilator assisted and their caregivers.
Mental Health and Counselling
Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in requests for mental health supports from 4,500 contacts last year to over 6,000 this year. To increase access to our services, we pivoted to a hybrid model of phone, video, and in-person community mental health and social services including outreach and wellness checks for affected community members and developing virtual counselling and group supports. Staff developed and facilitated weekly virtual groups for Vietnamese and Chinese seniors, developed an 8-week Calligraphy group for the Chinese community, and partnered on the development of a 10-week Art Therapy group for the African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) community.
Black-Led Mental Health
Many African, Caribbean and Black (ACB) community members do not access mental health or practical support because of cultural misunderstandings, stigma, inadequate community resources, racism, and microaggressions within mainstream services. SWCHC supports the fundamental belief of the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition that the black community can build on the resilience that already exists in our ACB communities to create a more diverse and inclusive mental health system.
Increased access, decreased wait time to culturally safe mental health services by hiring an ACB Mental Health Outreach Worker and an ACB COVID Crisis Worker, establishing a support line and adding a link to ACB counselling options to Counselling Connect. The Crisis line had 725 calls in the first six months.
Boosted well-being in the Black Community by holding weekly Durag Discussions on sexual health, relationships, HIV prevention and weekly talks about the health impacts of COVID-19 within the ACB community attended by over 800 participants.
Since April 2020, we have facilitated and supported 15 Virtual Wellness sessions, with over 600 participants.
Supported the development of the Ottawa Black Mental Health Coalition (OBHC), a group of black leaders committed to dismantling the systemic barriers within our mental health system that prevent Black people from accessing culturally appropriate mental health supports and resources.
Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression
Racism is not a new phenomenon in our community. It has existed throughout Canadian history and intensified during different periods in time. It is important that we continue to engage in conversations around racism, the role it plays in the Canadian settler society, and our responsibilities in building solidarity across struggles for racial justice.
In addition to continuing to engage a team of community members in developing a community-based anti-racism strategy, we hosted a series of virtual events on racism involving over 35 volunteers and 200 participants, including:
What does COVID-19 tell us about Systemic Racism?
Healing Racial Trauma: An Indigenous Perspective on Dealing with Grief
Anti-Asian Racism: The Past, Present, and Future
Harm Reduction Opioid Crisis
Harm Reduction respects the person's right to receive care and services and make choices for their own lives. Harm reduction is founded on kindness, compassion, and caring, underpinned by social justice principles. This year our harm reduction staff and clients continued to address the challenges of a toxic drug supply and the impact on our community.
Worked with our partners to operate a respite centre at Tom Brown Arena. These centres offered people access to showers and washrooms and a place to rest during the day. The centres also provide essentials like toiletries, food, clothing, crisis intervention, and referrals and links to other primary care services.
Supported 255 people in 2,881 visits by our Homeless Outreach Team. We have ramped up the Homeless Crisis Outreach Worker (HCOW) team to 7 days a week. Through this increase, in conjunction with St Luke's Table morning outreach, we have provided the community with a Community Response phone number and email address for calls for service and inquiries related to homeless persons in distress and community needle pick-up.
Constructed self-contained consumption pods, indoors and outdoors, in our courtyard to enhance our ability to provide isolation consumption spaces and keep our clients safe
The Safe Supply and Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) program reached its projected maximum patient load of approximately 80 clients.
Building Community Together: Grassroots Planning in West Centretown
The last 5 years have seen significant shifts in Ottawa's West Centretown community. Many long-time residents can no longer afford to live in the community, and those who remain may feel they no longer belong in their community. Over the last three years, we have engaged with over 500 community members to create a long-term vision for their community. In addition to 35 recommendations, the team created a resource for a toolkit for community advocacy.
How do we create a healthy, affordable, and diverse community where everyone has a right to stay and shape their neighbourhood?
Affordable and liveable housing & equitable development
Facilitate social connections and increase public space
Increase access to recreation and leisure
Ensure equitable access to healthy food
Affordable and reliable transit and active forms of transportation
To launch the Building Community Together, SWCHC staff delivered 300 goodie bags to neighbours. These goodie bags included an "I Love Chinatown" pin, a season's greeting card, a resource card about our homelessness outreach and support services and a magnet promoting our newly released report.
Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre "COVID Emergency Isolation Fund”
The Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre (ONHC), hosted by Somerset West Community Health Centre, is a unique community-based initiative dedicated to providing timely, coordinated, culturally appropriate services that promote refugees, immigrants, and immigrants' health and social well-being newcomers. Our services include bridged primary care, mental health services, system navigation support, and language interpretation services.
To support the most vulnerable communities, we have conducted community outreach, distributed masks, hand sanitizers, multilingual information on Covid Wise practices, and wraparound support service for clients self-isolating after testing positive for Covid19. In addition, we have worked in partnership with the OHT to distribute the "Covid Emergency Isolation Fund" specifically for highly vulnerable individuals without status, and in partnership with local organizations, we have been able to reach 67 clients and extend financial support to cover shelter and basic living expenses.
At Yet Keen, over 70 unique individuals have been successfully coached to get on Zoom. This is an accomplishment our staff never believed would be possible given that our clients are all seniors who were unfamiliar with technology. One third of Yet Keen’s members are currently participating in virtual activities on a regular basis! Our Program is offering a healthy and active routine to seniors who are in isolation, vulnerable, or afraid to go out. Seniors have expressed gratitude for Yet Keen’s innovation and hard work on multiple occasions.
CLIENT STORIES & TESTIMONIALS
Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre had a client who could not afford to purchase a mobile phone. She lived on a fixed income and was having challenges finding support as a result of the pandemic and restrictions. She had usually relied on neighbours and friends when she was booking her appointments but because she didn’t have a phone of her own she often missed appointments because she didn’t get the message that someone called her.
Covid made everything even more difficult for her as she wasn’t able to rely on the community as much and felt alone, isolated and disconnected. She couldn’t go to her neighbour's house anymore because of stay-at-home orders and was stuck on her own all the time.
Because of this project, we were able to get her a phone which has made all the difference.
She told our staff "This is a blessing! I have my own phone now and I can call people anytime I want!"
In addition to being able to book and manage her healthcare appointments on her own now, she is also participating in online activities, video calls with friends and is learning how to download applications and stay connected with friends and family.
African Caribbean Black Mental Health Supports
A client called the African Caribbean Black Support Line after she got the contact from a friend. She was very discouraged, depressed, feeling unworthy and helpless. The friend referred her because our promotions named that we were providing targeted services for the ACB community and would offer “by us/for us” support where community members could feel a sense of safety. After a long conversation with the worker, the client in her own words said that “this is the best day for me in a long time. I feel that I made the best decision to call Somerset. I now have hope that I can have a purpose in life again."
Children & Youth Services
"I read this morning that today is Child Care Worker and Early Childhood Educator Appreciation Day. I had to write to the amazing team at Nanny Goat to express our gratitude.
We moved to Canada in September 2019 as immigrants and you were one of the first people to help us find our way in the system. You not only provided information about the program but also filled out our application form which would probably have taken us at least double the time. And how lucky were we to get a spot so quickly!
Then we met the wonderful team who assured us that our child would be well taken care of even though she couldn't speak English too well. And indeed she was well taken care of. She formed her first friendships and bonded with all the care providers.
Covid brought some difficult times upon our family. We were in a tough financial situation but the support by Nanny Goat continued. We engaged closely with staff, and our child always looked forward to the weekly activities and Zoom calls. Even when the school reopened, we were confident that the team would work extra hard to keep everyone safe.
In the end we spent less than 6 months with Nanny Goat but the program gave a headstart not just to our child but to our entire family.
Before closing I would also like to mention the playgroups run at Laroche park before we joined Nanny Goat. During COVID we were grateful for the Zoom playgroups run by them as well. They also helped us with some parenting ideas. I continue to join their after school playgroup. To put it mildly, my child loves it, and I think many other kids do too.
Please pass on our thanks to everyone who works passionately at Somerset West, we really appreciate the service that they provide."
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Jennifer Hartell, Chair
Iman Mohamed, Vice Chair
Chad Meda, Treasurer
Ryan Seid, Secretary
Thi Bach Mai Nguyen
Read our Audited Financial Statements here.