United Way Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington alongside other community organizations unveiled the newest investment into helping vulnerable populations in the area, with an aim to bring wraparound community care to those who need it.
Tuesday marked the launch of the Portable OutReach Care Hub (PORCH) which utilizes a retrofitted RV to offer a wide variety of services to those who need it in the region.
The RV is fully functional, and it’s capacity for mobile care fills a need in the community for helping to ease access to services.
In a news release, United Way KFL&A President and CEO Bhavana Varma says PORCH demonstrates the potential of services in the community when organizations work together.
“This is a great example of collaboration and innovation, providing programs to people where they are,” said Varma.
“People in vulnerable situations will have access to programs they may not otherwise have been able to travel to – this is where PORCH comes in, to help fill that gap.”
PORCH is equipped with a counselling room, a group space, and a room for clinical care for those who otherwise can’t access medical support.
Among the services available, the mobile clinic will provide wound-care, hepatitis C testing and treatment, sexual health care, harm reduction services, including naloxone kits, immunizations, and addiction treatment and services.
Meghan O’Leary, Director of Clinical Services for Kingston Community Health Centres, said that partners have long identified a need for an outreach vehicle, especially to reach more rural populations outside of the Kingston city centre.
PORCH looks to remove as many barriers as possible to accessing services, and will provide low barrier, non-judgemental service to the populations who need it most.
O’Leary says the drop-in format planned for the mobile clinic is a more suitable model for a fair amount of individuals being targeted with this new project.
“Structured appointment schedules don’t often work for a population who is struggling to just get some of the basic necessities covered in a day,” O’Leary said.
“They can just come to the vehicle and it doesn’t have to be a booked appointment… We’re trying to build that pattern where providers can say ‘we’ll see you next week at this time’.”
In general, O’Leary says the RV will typically park at a fixed location for a half a day before moving on to another location, returning to the same locations on a weekly basis to offer as much consistency as possible to clients.
She says while it will be a learning process that could continue to be shaped as time goes on, she’s optimistic about the potential of PORCH, including possible collaboration with organizations who provide services outside of the health care space.
“It’s definitely a learning process but there’s huge potential with this,” O’Leary said.
“It was a common theme that many organizations feel that it’s hard for them to be out and about and doing the outreach because they don’t have a physical location to meet people in, so the RV is the trying to be that physical space they can use.”
O’Leary said as time goes on she hopes to see services like Legal Aid as well as life and career supports find their way into the clinic’s wrap around services.
Tuesday’s news release states that this new project is funded in part by Kingston Community Health Centres, through investments by the Government of Canada’s Reaching Home program administered by United Way KFL&A and the Ministry of Health of Ontario.
A number of local agencies including KFL&A Public Health and Addictions and Mental Health Services will be included as partners providing services within the mobile clinic, with hopes to expand to other services as needed and available.
Kingston and the Islands MP Mark Gerretsen said the federal government is proud to support this innovative idea.
“By offering mobile health and social services, PORCH is offering an innovative and flexible way to deliver a range of services to our most vulnerable residents,” said Gerretsen.
While logistics for winter still need to be worked out, PORCH is expected to run twelve months a year.
PORCH launched on July 19 at the Street Health Centre and will be making stops at events throughout Kingston to increase visibility and promote the new mobile clinic.