Oct. 31, 2020

Staff at Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Community Health Centre (SJCHC), located in uptown Saint John, have embraced the adversity of living through a pandemic and responded by offering virtual, supportive, educational sessions through their Hope Series.

“With creativity and compassion, we created this new series and expanded our services,” said Robin Kirkpatrick, clinical lead at SJCHC. “Our message is that there is hope and we will get through this together.”

Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Community Health Centre team of allied-health professionals

The Hope Series offers weekly virtual sessions to clients from SJCHC’s team of allied-health professionals.

 “As a team, we’ve developed the Hope Series: Living well through uncertain times to provide skills to help you cope with living through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Robin said. “Sessions are facilitated by different members of our team at SJCHC.”

Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Community Health Centre

Robin said normally they offer in-person group sessions and support, but with COVID-19, it’s simply not possible.

“We recognize that we are living through an unprecedented time of extreme national anxiety,” she said. “COVID-19 has widened persistent mental health inequities, making things worse for those who were already vulnerable.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Canada, mental health has declined by 44 per cent in women, and 32 per cent in men (Resilience – Canadian Mental Health Impact Report 2020). 

“The same report tells us there is a gender gap as well, with nearly a quarter of women indicating moderate to severe anxiety – higher than the 18 per cent of men reporting those feelings – and a similar finding in terms of loneliness,” said Robin.

Knowing this, Robin and the team at SJCHC decided they needed to continue to offer group sessions and support for those who are in need.

“Our goal is to focus on, despite the stress, ways to protect people’s mental health: exercising, being active, connecting with family and friends, maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” Robin said.

Each week, the idea of ‘hope’ is weaved through the session, no matter the subject.

“Hope makes it possible to imagine a positive future for yourself and your community,” Robin said. “Hope also focuses on resiliency – the ability to get through hard times, and to cope with difficulties and embrace them, which can create personal growth.”

For those who may not have access to the internet at home, Robin said they’ve partnered with St. John’s Stone Church to allow clients a space to attend sessions, while abiding by the public health guidelines related to physical distancing.

“The Stone Church has offered a space where people can go. They have a large space where people can be physically distanced and wear a mask,” Robin said. “They provide internet access using a large screen.”

St John’s Stone Church

Robin said the idea was to allow people to sign up for one or two sessions they’re interested in, or they’re welcome to sign up for every session.

“Each of the sessions are independent of one another because we wanted to provide people with an opportunity to come to those they’re interested in attending,” Robin said. “There’s no commitment to log on each week.”

Sessions take place on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and are free of charge. Those interested must pre-register and may do so by calling 506-632-5537 or emailing Amanda.Barton@HorizonNB.ca.

Upcoming Hope Series schedule:

Nov. 4: Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle  

Nov. 18: Medication management

Nov. 25: Emotions and how to cope

Dec. 2: Relationships

Dec. 9: Mindless / emotional eating during COVID-19

Dec. 16: Coping with the holidays

Robin Kirkpatrick

Robin Kirkpatrick is a Clinical Lead Social Worker at Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Community Health Centre (SJCHC) in Saint John. She has worked in various social work roles for the past 24 years. 

At SJCHC, she provides individual counselling to people experiencing anxiety, depression or overall life stressors and also group programs. Her role there is to support the allied health team and the primary care physicians and nurse practitioners.

She also provides support and education to community agencies working with priority neighbourhoods. She has a passion for self-compassion work and a strength-based approach and sees the importance of education and support in this area. 

October 24, 2020

Reading to a child, from the moment they’re born leads to success in school, and it’s a fun and engaging activity for both parents and children.

Kelly Harrell, a Horizon Public Health nurse in St. Stephen with the Healthy Families, Healthy Babies (HFHB) program, said from the moment babies are born until they’re about four-years-old, children absorb more information than any other time in their lives.

“Research shows that reading to children at least 15 minutes a day from birth and beyond will promote academic success in school. Literacy is an incredible foundation that can set children up for future success in life,” Kelly said.

Kelly Harrell, a Horizon Public Health nurse in St. Stephen with the Healthy Families, Healthy Babies (HFHB) program

HFHB is a free, confidential and voluntary home visiting program primarily for first-time parents in New Brunswick.

Kelly said with HFHB, she works with parents and their children.

“Typically, we provide home visits to eligible first-time parents, which begin either during pregnancy or upon the birth of their child,” Kelly said.

The HFHB home visiting program is offered until the child is two-years old.

“During our visits, we cover information requested by clients, and focus on promoting healthy childhood outcomes,” Kelly said. “We provide assessments and education on topics such as nutrition, growth and development, literacy, smoking cessation, financial resources, mental health, and community resources, to name a few.”

Kelly established a partnership with her local Rotary Club and began to coordinate Rotarians Reaching Out to Read (RROTR) in the St. Stephen and St. George area.

“This program was originally created through a partnership with Public Health and the Rotary Club,” Kelly said. “Other community partners involved in the development of this program include: Talk with Me, Parle Moi, New Brunswick Public Library Services (NBPLS), Quality Learning NB, and the Literacy Coalition of NB.”

Shirley Downey, a St. Stephen-based children’s author and literacy advocate, recently donated 100 copies of each of her books Mud Muddelicious Mud and Fishes in the Seas to be used however Public Health staff see fit – read more on this donation in the September 2020 issue of the Horizon Star.

“This was very thoughtful and generous and we wanted to thank her for being a community leader,” said Pamela Thompson-Bourque, Public Health manager. “Shirley’s legacy is her passion for fostering others to support literacy.”

Shirley Downey

Shirley worked with literacy programs since 1991, when she founded Born to Read.

“The first five years of a child’s life are the most important. Just as good food builds strong bodies, good books build strong minds,” Shirley said. “Those beginning years, especially the first three, are the ones that will make or break a kid. That’s when you need to get that brain stimulated.”

Born to Read New Brunswick is a book gifting program that promotes the importance of reading with children. On the birth of their child, parents are given a bag of books for their baby, and information on early childhood development and library programs.

In addition to conducting home visits as per the HFHB program, Kelly represents Public Health on the board for Born to Read, and chairs the Horizon RROTR workgroup, which is made up of literacy coordinators across Horizon.

“Each coordinator is a Public Health nurse working in the HFHB program and is tasked with representing their local area,” Kelly said. “This workgroup strives to continuously enhance our literacy program.”

Kelly said funding from Born to Read has made it possible for the RROTR program to be delivered across Horizon.

“All families enrolled in the HFHB home visiting program now receive this literacy program,” she said.

Kelly said Shirley’s donated books will go to HFHB clients they see during home visits, and these donated books will help build a child’s library right from the start!

Th HFHB program is provided throughout Horizon, and Shirley’s books will be distributed in the Saint John Area, which includes communities from St. Stephen, to Sussex, to Grand Manan and Campobello Island.

Kelly said Shirley has been an incredible mentor to her.

“With generous funding from St. Stephen-Milltown Rotary, I was able to start up the Rotarians Reaching Out to Read program in the St. Stephen and St. George areas,” Kelly said. “And Shirley’s help was instrumental.”

For more information, and to access literacy programs offered through Horizon please call your local Public Health office.

Horizon had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Shirley Downey for this story in September. On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Shirley Downey passed away peacefully at her home surrounded by her loving family.

Horizon extends its heartfelt condolences to Shirley’s family, friends and all those who knew her and is honoured to have the opportunity to share her story.

Kelly Harrell

Kelly Harrell graduated from the University of New Brunswick in 2001 and started her nursing career in Calgary, Alta. where she worked for approximately three years in hospital and community settings.

In 2005, she began working at Horizon’s Public Health office in St. Stephen, where she calls home.

Kelly loves her job in Public Health as she has the privilege of helping others work towards achieving greater health outcomes.

Disclaimer: Due to COVID, home visits with Public Health nurses were either suspended or limited. However Public Health nurses and dietitians have continued to support clients with telephone visits and “virtual home visits” as they work toward returning to in person home visits within the Public Health guidelines.

October 2, 2020

Keeping people off the highways by bringing health care to the community is the basis for introducing a hub and spoke model of care through Horizon’s Charlotte County Collaborative Wellness Centre (CCCWC).

Christine Deveau, Community Health Program manager in Western Charlotte County, said this model of care allows the health care team from the St. Stephen-based CCCWC to extend programs and services across the communities of St. Stephen, Saint Andrews and Campobello Island.

“This is aimed to improve access to community-based programs and services for the clients in Western Charlotte County, bringing programs closer to home,” Christine said. “Our actions are guided by the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and the priorities that were identified by residents.”

Western Charlotte County includes the communities of St. Stephen, Saint Andrews and Campobello Island.

Saint Andrews

Christine said they are always exploring different ways to improve access to health care services for residents, and one way they did that, was by partnering with the Saint Andrews Health Centre, which is owned by Town of Saint Andrews.

Through this partnership, Horizon has been providing access to health care services since the fall of 2019 at the health centre one day per week.

“The Saint Andrews spoke site is in development and more programs and services will be added based on community need,” Christine said.

Jocelyn LeBlanc, one of the nurse practitioners and a licensed practical nurse from the CCCWC travel to Saint Andrews as a way of reducing the need for clients to travel to St. Stephen to access health care services.

“Jocelyn provides primary care appointments to her rostered patients from the Saint Andrews area, and also provides well-woman visits,” Christine said. “The well-woman clinics are not only for her rostered patients, but also for any patients who wish to have a female provider for that service.”

Campobello Island

The CCCWC also provides support to residents who live on Campobello Island. The team at Horizon’s Campobello Island Health Centre (CIHC) are a spoke site of the CCCWC’s hub site.

Leaving Campobello Island for health care means traveling through the United States, or by two ferries (one of which does not run year-round) to get to mainland New Brunswick.

“That’s something we are always hoping to avoid. We work closely with our colleagues on the mainland to facilitate bringing services to the island either virtually or in person, whenever possible to reduce the burden of travel for clients when seeking care,” Christine said.

In August 2020, the CIHC welcomed Christopher Scalabrin to the team. Chris is a nurse practitioner working full time on Campobello Island, providing care to island residents five days per week.

“Christopher has 25 years of nursing experience, he has worked in the United States, and has been a nurse practitioner for 14 years,” Christine said. “He brings many years of experience and knowledge to Campobello Island.”

For example, he worked in the Orthopedic Department in Calais, Maine where he provided joint injections for pain relief.

“This is a service he will be able to provide to the residents of the island and extend to the other sites in Western Charlotte County if needed,” she said.

On Campobello Island, the health centre team continues to offer programs and services with the goal of reducing the need for islanders to travel to the mainland for care.

These services include: specimen collection, diabetes education, respiratory health screening, mental health services, smoking cessation, methadone maintenance program as well as other programs, always with the goal of supporting community-based access.

St. Stephen

Christine said the goal in Western Charlotte County is to implement programs and services that help people access care in their own community.

“As an example, we had a young patient who needed monthly injections. So instead of having the patient and their mother drive to Saint John on a monthly basis, the service was provided at the wellness centre in St. Stephen – the patient’s home community,” Christine said. “This kept the family in their home community and off the highway to Saint John to receive care.”

Horizon’s CCCWC was established in 2017 after the CHNA identified developing a collaborative model of care to deliver comprehensive, integrated primary health services for the community as a priority.

Located on the third floor of the Charlotte County Hospital, the CCCWC is a one-stop shop for an upstream approach to health care.

The space has been provided by the hospital to implement a health and wellness centre in St. Stephen, which acts as a hub, while the CIHC and Saint Andrews are its spokes.

Christine Deveau

Christine is the Community Health Program manager for Western Charlotte County and the manager of the Sexual Health Program for the Saint John Area.

She has 16 years of nursing experience and has worked in various roles throughout her career, such as rheumatology nurse case manager and bed access coordinator. She graduated with her master’s in nursing in 2016.

Christine is passionate about patient-focused care and loves that her current role directly impacts patient care by molding services and access to care around patients and community needs by working collaboratively in a team environment.

September 18, 2020

By Dominique Daigle, community developer in the Greater Saint John Area

A lot of effort has been invested at all levels of government to attract more newcomers to our province – to help grow New Brunswick’s population and economy.

According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), New Brunswick welcomed a record 6,000 new permanent residents in 2019, with 1,035 of them planting roots in Saint John, a 24 per cent increase from 2018.

Horizon Health Network and the Saint John Newcomers Centre (SJNC) partnered to address some of the gaps in services faced by newcomers in the Saint John area. Founded in 2009, the SJNC is a non-profit settlement agency offering a wide range of services that promote newcomer integration and multiculturalism in Greater Saint John.

One of the elements many newcomers mentioned missing was having a safe place to talk about successes and challenges of arriving and settling in Canada. Positive progress in the attraction of newcomers to our city can often create challenges for settlement agencies as they try to meet their many needs. To settle and make Saint John their home, they need support.

Support includes finding employment offering living wages, affordable housing and navigating all parts of life in a new country. If navigating government systems can seem like an overwhelming task for Canadians, imagine how much more complicated it can be for someone who does not know the various levels of services and government? 

Tasks like how to open a bank account, get a Medicare card, access the workforce, obtain a primary health care provider, navigate the school system or simply how to dress your family for a Canadian winter can seem daunting.

As one of Horizon’s Community Developers and through my work with newcomers I became aware of the many things we may do things differently in our province and our city. Things I took for granted before as “the way it is.” It has opened my eyes to just how differently things can be in other countries. For example, in some countries there are no high school, college, or university graduations ceremonies!

I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, and through conversations we realized a need for newcomers to meet with each other. The original idea was for people to meet weekly face-to-face over coffee or tea to give newcomers a safe place to chat about their experiences with fellow newcomers and locals, allowing them to connect them with their new surroundings.

This transformed into a vision for a Wellness Café, and it was going to be launched in March 2020. However, with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the plan was put on hold.

We knew the needs of newcomers were still there and, in some cases, even greater as confinement made some of them feel even more isolated and unaware of the resources in the community.

One positive aspect of the pandemic is it forced us to be innovative and think outside the box to see how we could meet the need of the community.

We created the virtual Wellness Café where newcomers could connect over Zoom. From April to the end of June, the group met weekly. One week in French, the next in English. Over the summer months, we switched to bi-weekly gatherings as things reopened, and people seemed to cope better.

The group was made up of people who had recently arrived in the country, some who had been here a few years, and others who were born here.

Some of the topics discussed during the virtual Wellness Café included:

We also tried to include demonstrations of various stress management techniques such as deep breathing or grounding strategies. We have grown together through the red, orange and now yellow phases of this pandemic! 

One of the favourite topics was food, as everybody can relate to it! That week truly created moments of sharing, connection and laughter as people were eager to exchange traditions around food and, of course, recipes.

I participated in the Virtual Wellness Café as a co-facilitator and have learned so much over a short period of time from all the participants. I have witnessed resilience in a wonderful group of people.

As businesses reopened we introduced a few face-to-face activities, while still respecting Public Health guidelines. We had a picnic in the park and a guided tour of uptown Saint John, which was much appreciated.

Feedback has been quite positive, and many felt it helped them feel less lonely and isolated, as well as more connected to the community during these uncertain times. It is rewarding to help, and to be able to see the positive impact small gestures, like a safe place to talk, can have on people.

We are excited that the virtual Wellness Café will restart at the end of September 2020. Anyone interested in participating, please reach out to Dominique at Dominique.Daigle@HorizonNB.ca.

Dominique Daigle has been a community developer with Horizon since 2015. She currently supports francophones and newcomers across the Greater Saint John area. She is a graduate of Dalhousie University’s Master of Social Work program.

Born in Edmundston, but raised in Fredericton, she has experience working with various communities living in minority areas. She previously held diverse social work positions in child protection services, community social work and with the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.  

Dominique is passionate about social justice, human rights, public engagement and empowering communities to creating sustainable change.

She is always on the lookout for community leaders, new partnerships, and different ideas to improve the wellbeing of her community. If any of these speak to you, feel free to reach out to her at Dominique.Daigle@HorizonNB.ca.