From the CEO of the Toronto Central LHIN
Homeless Shelters & Health Care: Toronto Shelter Users to Have Better Access to Health Services
On January 23, I had the privilege of emceeing the announcement at Salvation Army’s New Hope Leslieville shelter about improved access to health services, including primary care and mental health supports, for people who are homeless or using shelters in the City of Toronto.
This new collaborative approach between the Toronto Central LHIN, the ministry and the City of Toronto will begin in five new shelters across the city that will provide more than 300 beds to vulnerable people who often have complex health needs.
A new advisory committee of shelter operations, shelters users and health service providers has also been created to provide ongoing advice on improving access to health services for shelter users.
Alex Zsager, co-chair of our Toronto Central LHIN’s Citizens' Panel spoke to his lived experience in homelessness and was quoted in a number of the media stories that appeared following the announcement. Alex’s story is both compelling and speaks to the different that health care services in shelters can make for both individuals physical and mental health.
Citizens' Panel, Co-Chair
'As a former resident of the shelter system, I can appreciate the concerns and the need for health care in our shelters. Once you enter into a shelter, depression, anxiety and despair can set in very quickly and this is only compounded even more if you have any other health or mental health needs. There are far too long wait for psychiatrists, GPs, and other service’s which is putting a great strain on our hospitals and emergency rooms. Wait times for such services could be as long as 6 months to a year and this is unacceptable. By providing access to proper health care and services to residents in our shelters you would see a drop in emergency visits and better health for all.
In order to do this, we must look at all aspects of the resident’s health care needs. This includes not only looking at Mental Health and Addictions, Chronic Health, and housing but all other aspects of our health care needs. The residents in the shelter system must be included in all aspects of their health care needs. The residents in the shelter system must be included in all aspects of their care moving forward. They must be listened to, taken seriously and when making recommendations, their recommendations must be acted on.
In closing, I would like to say that the Toronto Central LHIN is setting a great example of what we need to do moving forward. By building on partnerships and collaborations with health care providers, organizations and service providers working with the homeless, cities housing and shelter supports, and the Toronto Central-LHIN Citizens Panel to provide the best care possible for everyone.
If we are to succeed moving forward we must collaborate and work together, and I for one look forward to working with all of you.'
I would like to thank Alex for sharing his story with us and at this announcement. The story was covered by the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, the CBC and CTV, to name just a few media outlets, and you can also read the news release here.
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