Hamilton

Niagara EMS expands COVID-era mental health resources around addiction and homelessness

Niagara EMS announced Friday that it will add a second vehicle as it expands mobile integrated health services to support people who are struggling with mental health, addictions and homelessness.

One-time funding for two temporary initiatives includes support for people experiencing homelessness

Niagara EMS is temporarily expanding its mental health services, particularly around addictions and homelessness. (Niagara EMS)

Niagara EMS announced Friday that it will add a second vehicle as it expands mobile integrated health services to support individuals who are struggling with mental health, addictions and homelessness.

In a news release, Niagara EMS says it has received one-time funding from the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network for two initiatives.

Those are:

  • Supporting individuals who are experiencing homelessness or living within the shelter system.
  • Support for the expansion of the mental health and addictions response team.

The funding is temporary, and goes until March 31, 2021. 

Adding a second mental health and addictions response team vehicle will allow Niagara EMS to provide greater mental health and addictions coverage geographically to Niagara residents, the service said in the release.

"Niagara EMS is excited to expand the unique services offered through our mobile integrated health teams to reach a greater number of people in Niagara," said Kevin Smith, chief of Niagara EMS. 

"Focusing on the homelessness community and those living with a mental illness, Niagara EMS, along with key partners such as Quest, make it possible for us to serve our communities reactively in enhanced 911 response as well as taking proactive approaches to reduce the need for people to resort to calling 911."

According to Niagara EMS, this initiative is part of a partnership with Quest Community Health Centre. 

Quest employs mental health nurses as part of the Urgent Service Access Team (USAT), and offered to temporarily share two of their nurses with the Mental Health and Addictions Response Team during this temporary expansion. 

"Mental health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing," said Marty Mako, commander of Niagara EMS's mobile integrated health programs.

"It affects how we think, feel, and act. Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and other emotional or financial stresses are more likely during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Whether it's caused by the new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, or lack of physical contact with family members, friends and colleagues, people are feeling overwhelmed." 

Mako said these changes can be even more difficult for people with pre-existing mental health conditions. 

"Hopefully these initiatives allow EMS to provide additional supports for those who are vulnerable and struggling in our community," Mako said.

Meanwhile, a City of Hamilton spokesperson says Hamilton has not received any specific mental health funding from the LHIN.

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