Med-I-Well’s insight into the world of homelessness and addiction
When people ask what we do as a business, our short answer is “we help organizations improve the overall health culture within their business while making their employees healthier, happier and more productive”.
With our office in the heart of downtown Sudbury, it became evident that there are big gaps in the health culture of our entire community. Downtown has become a hub to our community members that struggle with addictions and homelessness, and our team has been seeing the impacts of these struggles daily.
As the pandemic hit, it became apparent more than ever before that we were in the midst of another crisis. In 2020, this crisis had taken over 100 of our loved ones. The Opioid crisis continues to plague our city and the site of the crosses at the corner of Paris and Brady Street is a constant reminder that we need to bedoing more.
As a company whose primary objective is health and wellness, we believe in the value of these elements for ALL members of our community. We were presented with a unique opportunity to partner with the amazing people at the YMCA. Our discussions inspired the creation of a pilot project to provide care for those individuals accessing their Warming Centre. Our mission was to help address some of the primary care needs that our addicted and unhoused population were facing with a compassionate, caring and trust building approach.
And so began the Medication Management Compassion Project. Our team was in an ideal place to facilitate a holistic approach to medication management and helping with access to primary care, which are both large barriers that this population faces each day.
We ran a 6-week pilot program where our Med-I-Well Pharmacist, Psychotherapist and Community Outreach Lead, were on-site at the YMCA warming centre to complete medication consultations alongside mental health support.
Our Community Outreach Lead acted as an intensive case manager by scheduling medical appointments and accompanying our clients to ensure they adhered to care plans and had an added level of support. We nurtured our existing partnership with the Nurse Practitioner’s of Sudbury and worked closely with the team at 200 Larch Street to get unhoused individuals connected to health professionals.
In six short weeks, we learned an incredible amount about the challenges that are faced every day and about the individuals themselves. On top of addictions, they were battling many other mental and physical diagnoses – many of which often went untreated. Stigma, prejudice, and fear are just a few of the many barriers that prevent most from accessing the resources that they so badly need.
Our team provided a well-rounded and supportive approach to health care that included consultations, mental health support, appointment scheduling and accompaniment, and consistent follow-up and check-in’s.
We also developed some amazing relationships during our time at the YMCA Warming Centre.
· We got to know a father who owned his own business and desperately wanted to reconnect with his children, who struggled with chronic pain and was battling an addiction to fentanyl.
· We met a mother who was so proud of her daughter who is completing her university degree, who had recently relapsed and lost her home.
· We met a son who lives on the street, who’s got a family that loves him more than anything and a mother who has not lost hope. He lived the “picture perfect” childhood but due to his struggles with mental health and addiction, he is unable to remain housed.
These are people just like us who lost their way because of a multitude of different reasons, and are fighting every day to rid those demons. We came to know the pain and trauma behind the addictions and homelessness, and the broken system that offers little support to those who really need it.
We learned the value of compassion, respect and kindness – especially when trying to address health care needs. But most importantly, we left with a much stronger sense of community as we developed relationships with some of our most vulnerable community members. Our greatest takeaways were:
1. Everyone has a story. It's easy to judge people based on their circumstances. But, when we can move beyond judgement, we can see the amazing people that exist beneath it all.
2. Connection is key. Building trusted relationships was a critical first step to helping our clients receive primary care.
3. We are all human. On the outside, our circumstances make us appear very different, but underneath it all, we are all the same.
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about” – Margaret J. Wheatley