Durham Mental Health Services and Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences have teamed up to provide specialized community-based housing for patients who are ready to leave the hospital but who may not qualify for other community supports such as Homes for Special Care or standard group homes.
Having opened in April 2014, Kent House provides more intensive support than a typical community dwelling. It is staffed around-the-clock by one residential counsellor, three full-time Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and several part-time PSWs. In addition to the DMHS Kent House staff, each resident retains support from Ontario Shores, being served by an outpatient team consisting of a case manager, a nurse practitioner and a psychiatrist.
This high level of support is required due to the special challenges Kent House residents face. Some experience chronic physical ailments in addition to severe and chronic mental health challenges. Some lack basic daily living skills when they first arrive. For many of the residents, before coming to Kent House, life was a repetitious cycle of admittance to psychiatric hospital, eventual discharge and re-admittance.
Andrea Thornton is Kent House’s Residential Counsellor. “This program is great,” she says, “because these are hard-to-place clients who get stuck in the system, whereas this house allows them to come here, learn life skills, work with other people in the house, function in a community setting and transition into another community setting as opposed to returning to the hospital.”
Andrea explains that there is an emphasis on developing essential skills for daily living so that residents are prepared to transition to another community setting within two years. “There’s an expectation that they will complete certain goals, such as participating in a day program, working on their life skills, grocery shopping, taking the bus,” Andrea says. “Just generally taking an active role in their own recovery.”
“A lot of these clients were denied even Homes for Special Care, not being able to take care of themselves independently enough,” Andrea explains. “But we are finding that given the chance and the support, the clients are showing real signs of growing and developing in ways that weren’t anticipated. For example, it was expected a lot of our clients wouldn’t be able to take the bus alone, or go for their scheduled bloodwork independently, whereas a lot of our clients are now doing those things.”
DMHS Program Coordinator Krista Bull is delighted by the impact this new DMHS/Ontario Shores partnership is having. “For many years, DMHS and Ontario Shores have worked in partnership to provide housing options for clients discharging from hospital. The new Kent House program was an opportunity to focus on clients who needed a higher level of support, and the wraparound support from both DMHS and Ontario Shores is providing that.”
Kent House resident Brian appreciates the change from the hospital setting he had grown accustomed to. “It feels like a very homey atmosphere around here,” he says. “Being in the hospital institutionalizes you, whereas life here is like a home away from home.”