By Diana Ballon, Communications Coordinator
CAMH has gone mobile to support people in the community most affected by COVID-19 as part of its participation on the Mobile COVID Assessment Team (MCAT) - a group of community assessment clinics and health care organizations providing testing for COVID-19 in shelters and congregate care settings across Toronto.
CAMH staff have been working with staff at Women’s College Hospital to provide testing and support to more than 300 clients and staff in shelters—with plans to eventually test about 500 to 700 people per week both in shelters and boarding homes. So far, testing has been done at Home’s First Bathurst-Lake Shore Shelter, Margaret’s, Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre Men’s Hostel and Housing Program, Women’s Residence and St. Felix Centre 24-Hour Respite Program.
“We are working with Toronto Public Health, the Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) and Women’s College Hospital to test homes and shelters where there has been an outbreak of COVID-19, which means at least one positive test,” says Frances Abela-Dimech, Clinical Director of CAMH’s Clinical Ambulatory Services. “The goal is to be able to provide proactive surveillance testing for homes and shelters that have not had outbreaks as well.”
CAMH has also been working alongside MCAT partners to determine the best care pathway for residents of congregate settings who test positive for COVID-19, based on their mental and physical care needs.
“Depending on a client’s circumstances, they might be safest quarantined within their group home, transferred to isolation shelters set up by inter-city health associations, or going to acute care hospital,” explains Jill Campbell, Vice President of the Complex Care and Recovery Program and Chief Nursing Executive at CAMH. “People with mental health and addiction problems are transferred to a COVID isolation unit within CAMH.”
Sydney McDowell is a registered nurse at CAMH who has been one of the front-line workers swabbing residents and staff, most recently at St. Margaret’s shelter and the encampment next to it.
“There are a lot of people struggling with mental illness who are not getting mental health support,” she says. “We come in with full PPE and the experience can be very scary. They may think we are scared of them, or that we have alternative motives, so we explain that we are trying to keep them safe and ensure that we don’t re-traumatize anyone.”
CAMH’s participation in the MCAT initiative is part of the hospitals work to support community agencies that also serve CAMH patients.