For people who have housing instability, live in poverty or struggle with mental health or addictions, and like to do most things face-to-face, accessing health care services and other lifesaving programs can be difficult at the best of times. During a pandemic, it’s even more challenging, making virtual and remote service delivery inaccessible and putting them further at risk.
That’s why the staff at Four Directions Community Health Centre in Regina applied for a grant to help supply phones to vulnerable people in their care. These phones allow them to stay in contact with medical advice and services. Four Directions has now received two grants totalling nearly $5,000 for their cellphone outreach initiative from the Division of Social Accountability (DSA) Community Reciprocity Fund and the Indigenous Community Support Fund through Indigenous Services Canada.
“The grants allow us to support our clients in staying socially connected during the pandemic,” said Natalie Jones, a manager at Four Directions. “A lot of primary care providers are not seeing people in person and many of our clients may not have a phone so can’t virtually access care.”
The cellphone outreach initiative has enough funds to provide 30 phones to clients of Four Directions for up to five months. Half of those phones will be earmarked for Indigenous clients as part of the criteria of the grant. The program is developed in partnership with Bolt Mobile’s Operation Lifeline initiative to refurbish old cell phones and tablets for redeployment to clients in need.
“They made it so easy,” said Jones. Bolt Mobile refurbished the old phones, many donated by Four Directions staff and other employees for their clients.
Any member of the Four Directions team can refer a current client to the program. They are asked to sign an agreement which ensures they have a main contact at Four Directions who can check in with them periodically.
“The phones allow them to maintain contact with family and friends, while maintaining physical distancing,” Jones said about how much more important the program is during the pandemic. “Apart from providing a tool for continued social support, having a phone will allow vulnerable clients struggling with chronic disease, mental health or addictions to continue to connect with their health care team for medical support.”