ARC project connects people to care

The pandemic hasn’t offered a lot of bright news, but it has offered the Bruyere Research Institute an opportunity to expand a research project it’s been working on since 2015.

The Access Resources in the Community (ARC) project is a service offered through primary care practices to support patients in finding the resources that can help them address their needs, and fill gaps in the current health services structure.

“The current study was developed to link people with health and human resources that can help them overcome the consequences of the pandemic in the areas of income stabilization, mental health and isolation, or anything else they need,” said Dr. Simone Dahrouge, lead researcher with the Bruyere Institute.

The project has been deployed in Merrickville-Wolford and North Dundas for now, but the goal is to integrate the service into the new Ontario Health teams in tandem with, or as an enhancement to, the 211 service.

While individuals within the study area can get the service directly through the Bruyere Institute, the project is working with primary health care providers who can refer patients to the study. Working with health care providers is essential to building trust, said Dahrouge.

“Once an individual is enrolled they’re paired with a navigator like myself, and then I look for the community or government resources they need to overcome whatever barriers they’re facing,” said Nicholas Kathen, a navigator with ARC.

Kathen said he’s helped individuals get access to CERB during the pandemic, because that kind of paperwork can be an insurmountable barrier for some individuals. He’s also been able to connect individuals with mental health and social services that they either didn’t know were available or were nervous about contacting.

The age of individuals using the service varies, according to Kathen, but the average for the study right now is 50 to 64.

“We also see individuals in their 20s and 70s but we’ll help anyone that needs the service. In this study we’ve had 24 referrals but have 16 individuals enrolled in the actual study,” said Kathen.

The idea for the project came from a team of researchers, health care providers, community groups and decision-makers, who met in 2015 to identify gaps in the Ottawa health system and one of the gaps identified was navigation of resources available, said Carolynn Warnet, research assistant.

“One of the goals is to optimize access to existing resources in the community – that’s been one of the underlying goals across the project,” said Warnet.

A feasibility study has been completed and it was followed up with a randomized control trial in Sudbury and Ottawa. In that trial, there were 12 participating primary health care providers and 326 enrolled patients.

“We are just analyzing the results of that study now,” said Warnet.

The idea is to offer patients a connection with a human being who can offer individual patient-centred care. The navigator works with the patient to understand the individuals’ needs and the barriers they face and then helps them identify the resources that best address those needs.

“It can be something like anxiety over picking up the phone to make a cold call to a service the individual needs; the navigator can help,” said Warnet.

The entire project is about giving people access to better health care through individually tailored service in both official languages.

“The program mostly deals with the social determinant of health. A lot of people have trouble filling out forms or getting from one location to another to access a resource they need, so the navigator is there to give instrumental options and follow up with the patient,” said Dahrouge.

The follow-up is the biggest difference between ARC and the 211 service that’s already available. According to Dahrouge, the 211 program is an essential service, but it’s often not enough for people who need more intervention.

As Dahrouge points out, there is a need for something for the general population – people with less education, or who don’t have a strong social network. An example, said Dahrouge, is the types of things that a daughter or son might do for their elderly immigrant mother, helping her overcome barriers of language, transportation or helping her fill out forms or get access to financial services.

“How the ARC program could be rolled out is still unclear or whether it’s something that the new health teams would be willing to invest in,” said Dahrouge.

The project is funded through the Canadian Institute for Health Research and the Ontario Ministry of Health and is supported by Ottawa University.

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The program is still open to participants within the study’s geographical area.

So people in North Dundas and in Merrickville-Wolford can still take part in the study.

Anyone who is resident of those regions or within the following postal codes – K0G 1N0, K0G 1G0, K0A 2R0, K0C 2L0, K0C 2K0, K0E 1J0, K0E 1S0 or K0E 1W0 – can enroll in the service by calling 613-562-6262 ext. 2940 or by emailing ARC@bruyere.org.

TORONTO STAR