TESP diversion success

Dec 29, 2015 by

DeirdreHeadshotGreyLast June, Shepherds of Good Hope (SGH) partnered with the Ottawa Paramedic Service through our Transitional Emergency Shelter Program (or TESP).

This program, housed at SGH, with the medical component provided by Ottawa Inner City Health Inc., and funded by the City of Ottawa, supports the vulnerable population we serve. Providing comprehensive care and treatment within the walls of SGH allows paramedics to drop off homeless people to us so they can receive care and treatment in our shelter rather than in Ottawa’s emergency wards.

Why is this important? Offering these services in the confines of the shelter allows our team, OICH and our partnering agencies such as Carefor, the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and others, to connect directly with clients they see regularly.

Prior to June, paramedics had to take intoxicated, high or mentally ill clients to busy emergency rooms where, by the very nature of their short-term and fast paced environments, ensured homeless people often received less services than they would in our shelter. This often resulted in a “revolving door” where people were back on the streets hours later, only to repeat that scenario – sometimes several times each week.

Paramedics tell us they love this new option. It allows them to be more responsive in the community and more efficient with their time and resources, while ensuring the homeless community also receives the best services possible – services that are tailored to their needs by people with whom they’ve built a trusting relationship.

To our knowledge, we are the only shelter in Ontario that offers this service. In the few months since paramedics began dropping off clients to us, 80 visits to hospital emergency rooms have been diverted. On those 80 occasions, paramedics were able to free up their time to get back into the community faster; 80 fewer trips were made to Ottawa hospitals and on 80 occasions, homeless people were able to receive better, faster and more comprehensive care at the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Clients are able to receive immediate care from staff who know them and who are specialized in working with the homeless population. Their vitals are checked and they are given the medications and treatment they need. They are placed in observation dorms so they can be monitored and are checked at least once an hour by medical staff on rounds. When they wake up, they have access to common areas where they can access computers, watch TV and have a cup of coffee instead of having to leave immediately. They can connect with a case manager, nurse and/or mental health nurse.

Stabilizing their health and connecting them with the right resources in the right place at the right time creates allows us to assist our clients in transitioning to housing, which is our ultimate goal.

This helps our entire community – it saves taxpayer dollars on an already burdened health care system, to the tune of $1.7M annually. Most importantly, homeless people receive timely, effective care and more immediate and greater access to community resources when they are most in need.

Doesn’t everyone deserve to have a roof over their heads and a safe place to live that they can call home? We think so, and we’re working hard with our community partners to make it happen.

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Deirdre Freiheit is the President and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope

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