Sunday, September 24, 2023
September 24, 2023

Mobile health clinic boosted by donations


For 100+ Women Who Care Salt Spring

After three compelling presentations, including from the Salt Spring Island Farmland Trust and Gulf Islands Secondary School Rowing Program, the Salt Spring Community Health Society was declared the winner during 100+ Women Who Care’s most recent meeting.

The society was awarded a collected total of $15,600 to go towards the purchase of an electric cargo van that will be converted into a mobile health clinic — a “doctor’s office on wheels,” as Martha Taylor, vice president of the society, calls it.

“This marks an important step towards addressing accessibility to primary health care and mental health services on Salt Spring, where now 50 per cent of people report not having a family doctor or are falling through the cracks,” she said.

The health society formed a steering committee in the fall of 2017 from a group of residents drawn together out of concern for the chronic shortage of doctors on Salt Spring. It became an incorporated B.C. society in 2018 and a registered charity later that year. In order to ascertain how the society could best serve the community, it conducted a health needs assessment. The number-one concern among residents was the lack of timely access to mental health services.

The vision for the society’s mobile health clinic is that it will be staffed by primary health care providers, such as a physician or nurse practitioner, and a registered nurse — each with mental health training — and one or more peer support workers or clinical social workers. This is to ensure patients have access to a team trained to provide inclusive, trauma-informed and culturally appropriate care.

“We believe a mobile health unit that treats and refers cases before they become urgent will have a positive effect on the caseloads of existing physicians and hospital staff,” said health society president Jennifer Williams. “We also believe a mobile clinic can attract primary health care and mental health outreach providers who are drawn to this model of health care and may relocate here.”

The society is partnering with the Salt Spring Health Advancement Network to carry on its Mental Wellness Initiative, which is a community-led program focused on expanding peer support programs and includes the recently launched Ambassador Program. The program involves the RCMP, Salt Spring Island Chamber of Commerce and Salt Spring Community Alliance with volunteer support peers making themselves visible and available to anyone who looks like they could use a hand.

Mobile units are proving successful and are part of a growing North American trend. There are currently 26 operating across the country, with eight in B.C. Salt Spring’s mobile health van will be the first 100 per cent electric van in Canada.

The timeline for ordering and receiving e-vehicles is currently two to three years, and including the cost of converting and installing the necessary equipment, the budget is projected to be approximately $275,000. However, a recent donation by a generous community member has allowed the society to put a deposit on an in-stock Ford E-Transit van. In addition to the 100+ Women’s donation, the society has a grant from the Salt Spring Island Foundation and a Capital Regional District Grant-in-Aid commitment. The society is accepting donations from interested community members.

“On behalf of the board of the Salt Spring Community Health Society, I’d like to express our gratitude to the 100+ Women Who Care members’ financial support for our plan to bring an electric mobile health clinic to the island. This is a significant step forward for us,” said Williams.

The 100 Women Who Care initiative was launched in 2006 as a simple, efficient and effective collective fundraising model for charities. One hundred (or more) women each contribute $100 and vote for one of three nominated charities three times a year. The Salt Spring branch was founded in November 2018 and has raised over $228,000 for now 14 causes.

The nominations deadline for the next 100+ Women Who Care meeting will be in October.


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