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The Alex’s mobile unit cruises in to support Calgary’s homeless

The well-being of thousands of marginalized Calgary citizens got a boost from a new mobile care initiative.

The Alex Community Health Centre Mobile Care Clinic launched today in Calgary, the first of its kind in the city.

The mobile care clinic is a collaboration between The Alex and Telus Health.

“With decades of experience in mobile health care, The Alex knows that being in the right place at the right time is critical to meeting the needs of those who experience barriers to good health care,” said Joy Bowen-Eyre, CEO of The Alex.

There will be a nurse practitioner and a peer support worker on board the mobile care clinic to assist those in need.

Support on the fly

David Fraser poses beside The Alex Mobile Care Unit in Calgary on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. ALEJANDRO MELGAR / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

They want to reach those who have difficulty accessing healthcare in their communities.

The Alex has two larger units for different populations. A Community Health Bus and their Youth Health Bus, both of which include nurse practitioners to assist people in need.

Those units aren’t able to reach everyone that are in need of healthcare and support.

“The logistics of getting to some places in the community, especially some of the downtown core, is just not feasible with those [units] logistically. We do it sometimes, but it’s just not ideal,” said program team lead and registered nurse, Emma Wissink

“We’re looking at reaching those marginalized populations that are seeing barriers to accessing care. We really want to make sure that we are going to the places that are seeing those barriers and gaps in health care.”

Peer support is unique for The Mobile Care Unit. Peer support brings lived experience to the forefront to help bring safety and comfort for those they will attend.

“There’s a lot of barriers in healthcare where there’s some mistrust or [people] have had bad experiences in the past,” said Wissink.

“Whenever we look at a person with lived experience, they are able to meet those individuals where they are and understand where they’re coming from.”

David Fraser, peer support worker for The Alex mobile street outreach team, has lived experience with those he wishes to help.

“As somebody who spent time in addiction and homelessness, having something like this – when I was going through this – would have been invaluable,” said Fraser.

“To be able to do this kind of work, to help the people that I identify with very closely. It’s huge. I love it.”

Cross-country initiative

Telus’s Health for Good launched in 2014, and they have been a long-time partner of The Alex.

Since Telus launched the mobile centre program, it has seen success in multiple cities across Canada. Telus Health reached a milestone of 100,000 people helped since they started.

The mobile health clinics operate in 22 cities across Canada

“Homelessness is a growing concern. The opioid crisis is exacerbating those issues. We really felt like introducing a new mobile clinic with a smaller footprint would allow individuals that are in the downtown core to be able to better access services,” said Nimmi Kanji, director of community investment at Telus.

“You’ll see this on the streets in downtown Calgary providing all sorts of services. Primary care, mental health care, and addiction support as well.”

The mobile clinic is equipped with TELUS Health electronic medical records (EMR). With this, the mobile unit personnel are able to register those they assist or find their information quickly.

The equipment in place is necessary to provide medical care and harm reduction services, along with space for consultation and privacy.

“This partnership with The Alex is a perfect example of that. We’re bringing people together. We’re bringing technology together to drive better human outcomes,” Kanji said.