Accessing health and social services during the pandemic becomes an issue
Some 25 members of the Laval English-speaking community, including many Agape-NPI partners, attended a virtual Agape-Networking and Partnership Initiative (Agape-NPI) meeting on November 5, during which access by Anglophones to telephone help lines during the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed.
A good turnout
Among those present were many English-speaking seniors, representatives from the Community Learning Centre/Laval Senior Academy, the Learning Exchange, pedagogical and guidance counselling facilitators from the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, and representatives of a provincial committee for access to health and social services in English.
The goal, according to Agape coordinator and social worker Ian Williams, was to have the Agape-NPI’s health and social services partner, the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux de Laval (CISSS de Laval), present information on important service access points for health and social services to the Laval English-speaking community – especially in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Concerns over pandemic
In light of the pandemic and public health directives to keep physical distance from one another and to avoid crowds, said Williams, there may be concerns in the community about going to health facilities where those who are potentially infected with COVID-19 may come into contact with those who are not.
On the other hand, he added, accessing and following up with one’s physical and mental health are all the more important in the context of a pandemic. During the meeting, there were discussions about confusion which has arisen over the Quebec COVID-19 information line (1-877-644-4545) and its mandate, and when and why one should call this number.
Julie Lafontaine, assistant to the manager responsible for the Laval regional Info-santé line, as well as Carl Blondin, director for the Info-social info line, spoke about the 8-1-1 phone service, saying it is the main and best access point for both health concerns or psychosocial needs.
Gateways to services
According to Williams, often these phone lines are gateways to other services within the health and social services system at the CISSS de Laval as well as to community organizations offering social services. He said the mandate of the 1-877-644-4545 Service Quebec COVID-19 info line was also explained and contrasted to the 8-1-1 lines. Specific examples were given during the meeting about why one would call the COVID-19 information line.
Also during the meeting, the Agape-NPI coordinators reminded the participants about community referral resources such as the 2-1-1 community referral line (operated by the Referral Centre of Greater Montreal), as well as specific resource guides online which complement the 8-1-1 line.
As always, added Williams, the Agape-NPI provided a space where participants could engage in networking to address specific community needs between community members and local organizations or between organizations.
The Laval NPI Partners Committee is a “network partnership initiative” created in conjunction with the Community Health and Social Services Network (CHSSN). Formed in 2000, the CHSSN supports English-speaking communities across Quebec in their efforts to redress health status inequalities and promote healthy communities. Agape Inc., which provides a range of social services, including children’s daycare, from its storefront and offices on Notre Dame Blvd., is the sponsoring organization for the Laval NPI Partners Committee. The Laval network has attracted as many as 50 organizations which share an interest in improving local health and social services. They have included the CISSS de Laval, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board and the Jewish Rehabilitation Hospital.