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Community partner to bring health services to North Bay's Northern Pines facility for homeless individuals

The Nipissing District’s transitional housing complex on Chippewa St., known as Northern Pines, is bringing expanded health care to the facility.

The District of Nipissing Social Services Administration Board (DNSSAB), Crisis Centre North Bay (CCNB) and North Bay Regional Health Centre (NBRHC) are partnering to offer wrap-around services on-site to help break the “chronic homelessness cycle.”

DNSSAB chairman Mark King said the board recognized half-a-decade ago that tackling chronic homelessness requires more than a meal on the table and a roof overhead.

“Five years of hard work,” said King.

“DNSSAB applauds the partners’ willingness to participate in this unique model and for arriving at a creative, suitable plan to provide wrap-around services to clients.”

King said he feels that with these key partnerships in place, Northern Pines, is at the provincial leading edge, bringingmuch-neededd on-site medical, psychological, and emotional supports to tenants.

“The sense of real cooperation from the community level is real,” he said.

The crisis centre will operate a residential support team on site that offers a “structured, supportive and supervised living space.” Staff are on-site 24/7 to provide supports to residents including independent life skills training, one-on-one counselling, cooperative living skills, nutrition education, meal planning and preparation, community awareness, and structured tenancy.

“No one organization can solve the issues surrounding homelessness, mental health, and addictions. We need to be working together,” explained the crisis centre’s executive director Sue Rinneard.

“The folks that were attending the Northern Pines centre, that's where they feel safe and they've already established relationships with the housing staff. They might be more apt to accept the assistance."

The hospital, meanwhile will station one of its two Assertive Community Treatment Teams (ACTT) at Northern Pines. This team, led by a psychiatrist, will provide coverage in the community 16 hours per day, seven days a week with after-hours on-call coverage.

In addition, the hospital will provide on-site addiction supports on a scheduled monthly basis, through its mobile Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic.

“We’re proud to team up with the Crisis Centre and DNSSAB to improve mental health service efficiency and access for people experiencing homelessness,” said Paul Heinrich, the hospital’s president and CEO.

“This is the most progressive thing we've seen anywhere in the province. It will perhaps even spark the spirit in them to get more help."

Paramedics will be able to offer health assessments, point-of-care testing, vaccinations, and blood work to residents at Northern Pines to improve overall physical health. In many cases, access to the Community Paramedicine Program is the first point of contact for health services for homeless individuals.

Once complete, Northern Pines, will accommodate 60 homeless people and transition them to a life of independence. There are three distinct, secure living quarters and each phase has its own level of support and required care.

People can progress from high to low supports and then through the community housing continuum. Phase one is complete. Phase two is set to be ready by the end of the summer.

“All of those support systems, in my estimation, is going to change the landscape of homelessness in this city,” King concluded.

The board recently issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to retain the services of a consultant to assess the current homelessness situation in municipalities throughout Nipissing District and to make recommendations on how community services can move forward to respond to the identified needs.

The assessment will review current services for unsheltered people across the district, including the low-barrier shelter in North Bay and street outreach services, and consider the need for a homelessness hub, as well as offer best practices in these areas.

Details of the DNSSAB's plans for the Northern Pines campus can be found here.  

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