Ottawa Citizen

Mental health care that meets people where they are

The Royal reaches out to deliver care where it’s needed

- DR. JOANNE BEZZUBETZ President and CEO of The Royal

Each year, thousands of people in Ottawa and its surroundin­g regions receive mental health care from The Royal without ever walking through the hospital’s doors. Whether they’re seniors living in long-term care, people who are homeless, adults taking progressiv­e steps toward recovery from serious mental illness, or people receiving therapy through the convenienc­e of a video conference, they’re getting the care they need within their own communitie­s.

In my five years at The Royal, I’ve seen the positive impact that community-focused services can make for individual­s as well as our ability to provide mental health care across our health system. Now, as president and CEO of The Royal, it is part of my role to guide the organizati­on forward, and community-focused services represent an important part of our future.

Mental illness is never what defines a person. We all have or need other connection­s in our lives, whether they are family, friends, work, health services or social supports. Mental health care that is integrated with these things enables people to manage their illnesses within the context of their daily lives. This allows people to set and achieve life goals and be part of broader communitie­s that support wellness.

When I think of The Royal’s future, I envision a hospital without walls — an organizati­on of mental health experts working alongside other health care and social service providers throughout the community.

When people receive care in the community, it becomes integrated with other aspects of a person’s life and with other services that support a person’s wellness. For example, staff in The Royal’s Community Mental Health Program help clients access housing, manage their finances, pursue education or work and participat­e in activities that are meaningful to them. They also educate and train others working with these same clients.

While in-patient care will always be an important and necessary part of the mental health system, a system of integrated community care helps reduce the strain on hospitals, in particular emergency rooms, by helping people get and stay healthy closer to home. Above all, getting mental health help in the community allows people to maintain the things in their lives that support their well-being.

Connecting with people outside of a hospital environmen­t can also provide helpful insight for health care providers. The Royal’s geriatric outreach teams, for example, meet and provide consultati­ons for seniors with mental health issues where they live — a much needed service.

The teams tell me that the ability to go out into people’s homes, whether that’s their long-term care home, private home, or retirement home, and to see them where they’re living lets doctors, nurses and other clinicians do a much better assessment of what’s happening and determine next steps.

Working directly with other community carers also provides the opportunit­y for education and collaborat­ive problem solving. This day-to-day expertise exchanged between health care partners increases the quality of and capacity for care across our mental health system.

The Royal’s telemedici­ne clinics are an example of this. Working in partnershi­p with community health services in Ottawa and throughout the region, our clinicians provide virtual consultati­ons to help establish the best care for people with mental health issues. This may mean clarifying a diagnosis, making medication recommenda­tions, or sharing informatio­n about other appropriat­e services. This benefits the individual patient, but it also helps build the referring physician’s comfort and ability to care for patients with similar concerns in the future.

Making mental health care more accessible doesn’t always mean building bigger hospitals. It also means looking beyond the hospital to help more people where they live, work and access other health services. It’s about our team at The Royal working together with other community resources  sometimes leading, sometimes supporting, but always collaborat­ing.

Joanne Bezzubetz was appointed president and CEO of The Royal in August 2018. Prior to that, she spent five years as The Royal’s vice president of patient care services and has been working as a health care leader across Canada for more than 20 years.

 ?? PHOTO: WAISER/DIONNE ?? Joanne Bezzubetz, president and CEO of The Royal, has seen the positive impact that community-focused services have made on the hospital’s clients.
PHOTO: WAISER/DIONNE Joanne Bezzubetz, president and CEO of The Royal, has seen the positive impact that community-focused services have made on the hospital’s clients.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada