Oxford County Community Health Centre is reaching out to the Tillsonburg area with a new mobile health bus.
The aim of the service, which launched in September, is to provide medical and non-medical mobile health care to vulnerable populations in the county.
“Our purpose is to offer health care and outreach services to the most vulnerable populations,” said Jennifer Stock, nurse practitioner, who was in Tillsonburg last Wednesday with OCCHC outreach worker Abbie Boesterd, the second mobile bus visit in the area.
Vulnerable populations include precariously housed people (homeless), low income, and those experiencing mental health issues or addictions.
Going forward, the bus will be in town Wednesdays, most weeks, from 10-2. Anyone looking for support who wants to set up a meeting or more information can call or text 226-232-8207.
They do not have a specific parking location, but they do plan to spend most of their time downtown. In the winter, they plan to arrange indoor space.
“I think a lot of the work that we will be doing is on foot,” said Boesterd. “If medical supplies are needed, then we would come back to the bus. But we are really trying to provide as much as we can in the moment on the streets.”
“The idea right now is to set up the bus in a visible location,” said Stock. “And then we walk the street, we talk to people, we reach out. And if someone knows they are going to be in town on a specific time and date, they can call or text us.”
The bus gives them ample room to store information materials, wound care and harm reduction supplies.
“I have all my diagnostic tools,” said Stock. “I can do labs, referrals. Really, in my bag I have a miniature medical clinic for pretty much any of the basics that someone would go to their family doctor…”
“This is really a holistic approach to care,” said Boesterd. “We are so excited to have the partnership between the outreach and the NP (nurse practitioner).”
“So if I’m dealing with something with their physical health, but if it’s contributed to by not having income, food or housing, then that’s where the outreach comes in,” said Stock. “It works well together.”
They have already had some success in the early days.
“Even in the last week, we’ve met with an individual, provided information on the services we offer, and they followed up a couple days later to connect with us,” said Boesterd. “It is definitely successful, and we know that individuals are benefitting from this service.”
“There’s been a good uptake so far,” Stock nodded.
Currently the program is focusing on larger centres in Oxford County – Woodstock (Mondays), Tillsonburg (Wednesdays) and Ingersoll (Thursday). The plan is to make Tuesday their rural day to reach smaller communities.
“We’re definitely working on it (reaching smaller communities),” said Stock, hoping to get to towns like Norwich and Tavistock.
“Transportation is often a barrier,” said Boesterd, “so we are working really hard to remove that barrier, and to try to reach individuals where they are at.”
“We’re definitely planning to stick with that schedule, be consistent so that people can know ‘It’s Wednesday, we’re going to be in Tillsonburg,’” said Stock. “But based on need, we might switch locations or have flex timing.”
The mobile health bus program will operate as a pilot project until the end of March 2021, funded through grants from the United Way and supported by funds made available during the pandemic from the federal government.
Why is the bus needed?
Many people who struggle with housing and transportation have difficulty accessing services. The bus provides an opportunity to access health care and outreach by bringing the services to them.
What services are provided?
The bus has a nurse practitioner and outreach worker on board to provide:
Care for health concerns
Access to medical referrals
Support with form completion
Harm reduction supplies
Personal hygiene supplies
Who can access bus services?
The bus can be accessed by anyone in Oxford County who may be vulnerable, at risk, or in need of healthcare or outreach.
Oxford County Community Health Centre also provides outreach services in Tillsonburg from the Livingston Centre at 96 Tillson Ave. (519-842-9008 ext 323).
“As of April 2020, we’ve expanded our outreach services. I am in Tillsonburg full-time as an outreach worker,” said Boesterd.
Find more information on the Oxford County Community Health Centre at oxchc.ca.