Dr. Jennifer Kash, coordinator Leanne McIntee and nurse Amy Palumbo welcome people to the MOUHSS at Nunns Creek Park on July 10, 2020. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

Dr. Jennifer Kash, coordinator Leanne McIntee and nurse Amy Palumbo welcome people to the MOUHSS at Nunns Creek Park on July 10, 2020. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror

MOUHSS provides link to mental health services, or just a place to chat

Pandemic has had mental health effect on everyone in community

Times are tough, and it can be tough to find the help you need.

However, Campbell River’s mobile health and outreach unit, MOUHSS, makes it a bit easier for people to reach out.

Leanne McIntee is the coordinator for the Kwakiutl District Council Health Office’s mobile outreach program. She operates the MOUHSS vehicle, which stands for Mobile Outreach Unit for Health and Support Services. While most of what the MOUHSS team does for the community is provide links to healthcare services, it also helps connect people to mental health services and can act as a first step in people’s mental health journeys.

“It’s quite fascinating how folks don’t typically know about all the different resources we have in Campbell River,” McIntee said. “Part of the thing about being someone who can work on that vehicle is to recognize that we’re a platform. We’re a platform to offer services and help connect people to services in a way that they feel safe.”

To many people, reaching out to mental health services can feel daunting. Not knowing how to navigate the various programs available in the city, having to deal with intake paperwork or even feelings of shame or stigma associated with using these services can keep people from accessing the help they need. McIntee says that with MOUHSS, people are able to come and talk about their mental health without and barriers.

“What we usually do, is because we are in the spaces that we’re in, the doctor and the nurse will stay on the vehicle and the person that’s wanting to do counselling can go for a walk, sit on the beach or on a park bench and we’re being safe with COVID rules and wearing masks, but also in a space where you’re more relaxed,” she said. “Part of the reason is that some folks just don’t want to be going to a building. They don’t want to be seen walking to an agency, or the agencies are not allowing people and they have to go through this big telephone process before they can actually connect with a worker. Sometimes they just want want to have a conversation about how they’re struggling and realize they don’t need to go through a whole process and that they just needed to talk to someone for a moment.”

MOUHSS staff are then able to make recommendations for further help, or just be there to listen, whatever the person needs. While the original goal of MOUHSS was to provide help and healthcare for people on a remote basis during regular times, the program started right around the beginning of the pandemic. McIntee said that the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic has had a tangible effect on people’s mental health. McIntee said that she and her team have helped people from all walks of life in Campbell River, from students to seniors, people experiencing homelessness to working professionals.

“We go through many different things in our lifetimes and if we have the ability to feel safe and reconnect — even if it’s a phone call — we have the crisis line, but sometimes it’s nice to call the number on the MOUHSS card,” she said. “That’s safe, private and confidential. It’s about giving people as much opportunity and space to look at, talk about, and be able to understand what’s happening for them during a time of isolation.”

As difficult as it can be to deal with mental health especially during a pandemic, it can be even more difficult for Campbell River’s most vulnerable people. The MOUHSS is available to help all people who live in Campbell River, and works as a coordination centre for a peer-to-peer mentoring program to help build strength in the community and to provide outreach and support for those who need it most.

“A lot of folks who are outside, their bubble is different than folks who have a home’s bubbles look like. They may have 10 people in their bubble. That’s their family,” McIntee said.

The peer mentorship program also has the added benefit of letting people watch out for one another.

“When folks have the ability to go ‘Hey I connected with this person in this peer group, and this is what’s happening for them’, then reconnecting with someone who is an actual mental health practitioner and asking about the options to help their peer,” she said. “It’s a way that when peers connect with peers, it’s safe for them as well. They can say ‘Hey why don’t you come to the MOUHSS and talk to the doctor.’ “

MOUHSS makes regular rounds through Campbell River, running four days a week.

To speak to someone for mental health advice, please call 250-203-9713 or visit the MOUHSS vehicle.

RELATED: Mobile Health Unit takes to Campbell River streets

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