Newly launched crisis initiative provides support for seniors in Toronto

Coordinated, low barrier, city-wide Seniors’ Crisis Service provides comprehensive psychosocial support, delivers in-home interventions and prevents unnecessary visits to hospital emergency rooms

Tom Krause, Concurrent Disorder Harm Reduction Worker, Rochelle McAlister, Senior Manager, Seniors Mental Health, Katherine Zgorzalewicz, Addiction Crisis Worker and Steven Li, Bus Driver, Transportation Program

In 2015, WoodGreen met with partner organizations to discuss methods of addressing the service gaps for vulnerable seniors. The concept of a coordinated city wide Seniors’ Crisis Service for City of Toronto residents emerged, to be funded by the Toronto Central LHIN.

Given WoodGreen’s leadership in mental health and senior services, including work with Crisis Outreach Service for Seniors (COSS), Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) and Community Navigation and Access Program (CNAP), WoodGreen took the leading role in establishing the new Seniors Crisis Service initiative. The initiative is a partnership between WoodGreen, LOFT Community Services and Reconnect Community Health Services to provide seamless client and caregiver focused programming.

"The beauty of this program at a strategic level is that it brought three agencies from different sectors together under one umbrella based on client need,” said Ashnoor Rahim, WoodGreen’s Vice President of Community Care. “Our partners at LOFT and Reconnect bring incredible expertise to this initiative. We’ve come together to create a truly client-centric model."

0,0 Mobile crisis referrals

New clients served

New clients served through follow up case management services
0,0 Seniors crisis line calls

In early 2015, the seniors crisis line took shape, creating a platform to engage with “hard to serve” seniors and caregivers, who may be experiencing difficulties relating to mental health, addiction, dementia, frailty, or isolation. The crisis line provides a low barrier platform to connect with a very complex population in order to deliver the appropriate psychosocial support that is so desperately needed.

The new crisis line is completely inclusive – anyone who calls will receive support regardless of catchment restrictions. Despite the sheer size and complexity of Toronto boundaries, this novel model serves the whole city, allowing partners to deliver a seamless basket of services. These services are accessible 365 days of the year, providing timely access to low barrier, mobile support and follow up case management services.

Anyone can call the crisis line to receive assistance including seniors, family members, health care providers, friends and neighbours. When an individual in need calls the crisis line:

  • Staff assess the nature of the call to determine the most appropriate response;
  • If deemed necessary, a mobile team is dispatched to the senior’s home, within 72 hours of the call, depending on the situation;
  • If emotional support is required it will be provided immediately over the phone to de-escalate the crisis;
  • Staff will create a plan for the client, including referrals and linkages to appropriate psychosocial and health resources.

Mobile teams conduct face to face assessments and work to stabilize the situation to prevent crisis in the future. Sometimes, seniors in crisis call 911 for emotional support. That system is not designed for that purpose, nor does it have the capacity to meet those needs. The in-home interventions administered by the mobile team are a far more client focused and appropriate intervention.

The crisis line has been an immense achievement so far and is showing signs of sustained growth. Over the past year, the crisis line fielded 2,554 calls, referring 1,430 of those to the mobile response team. The crisis line offers an easily accessible alternate avenue for problem solving and support to serve the needs of seniors across the spectrum.

“The members of our family that were in crisis are making incredible progress and thanks to WoodGreen staff so is the family as a whole.”

–WoodGreen client