Network a first for Hamilton community support services

Network a first for Hamilton community support services

A newly developed Community Support Services Network in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brand LHIN has had a positive impact for health care consumers in the Haldimand Norfolk region, says Kit Julian, Network Steering Committee Co-Chair and director of Alzheimer Society of Haldimand Norfolk.

Back in January, more than 80 community support organizations met for the first time in the LHIN. Those gathered formed an official network in late February, including a six-member steering committee representing different sectors and different communities in the LHIN.

At that January meeting, Julian met with representatives of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, as well as Jan Narduzzi, executive director of Brain Injury Services of Hamilton. Narduzzi is also the network co-chair.

As a result, both services now share space with the Alzheimer Society, and are providing new outreach services to clients living in the Haldimand Norfolk region.

“It just happened naturally,” she says.

The network has also served to educate its members to the services available in the region, she adds.

“It really shows promise – and it strengthens our voice.”

The network has created a focus group to look at one of the ten integration opportunities defined by the LHIN in February. At the network’s last meeting on May 30th, a network focus group gave a presentation on “A Role for Community Services in Continuity of Care: Mapping Independent Living for Long Term Care Populations.”

The presentation, says Julian, helped to further define the role that community services organizations play in helping seniors or persons with challenging medical needs (brain injury, AIDS/HIV patients, or physical disabilities).

“We’re a huge sector with a voice that is not very strong,” says Julian. “We recognize the importance of our many roles, like keeping people in the community and reducing length of hospital stays.”

Networking is an integration opportunity not without its own unknowns, says Julian.

“There are barriers – not everyone is informed, and there is still the question as to what ‘integration’ means,” she says. Larger organizations, she explains, have provincial or national mandates that can conflict with local collaboration efforts. And future funding changes are still an area of concern, she adds.

“But we talk about not having separate body-parts in the system – everybody has a role to play. We have to breakdown the silos and end the isolation.”