Breaking barriers - The family navigation program: Promising and established practices for family caregiver engagement webinar 1

Webinar recording

On February 28, 2017, EENet presented a webinar as part of the Family Caregiver Community of Interest's Promising and Established Practices for Family Caregiver Engagement" series.

The Family Navigation Program is a partnership between CMHA Toronto, Family Outreach and Response Program and St. Joseph's Health Centre which assists family caregivers in communicating with mental health clinicians during a relative's hospitalization. Family caregivers are provided with education on issues of confidentiality and the Mental Health Act, while receiving one to one and group support.    

Watch the webinar recording and view the slides here. You can also read a summary of the webinar below or download the summary PDF.

The presenters

Justean Lebel, Family Mental Health Recovery Navigator - CMHA Toronto, Family Outreach and Response Program
Elly Livtak, Family Mental Health Navigation Coordinator - CMHA Toronto, Family Outreach and Response Program

In brief

The Family Caregiver Community of Interest hosted a three-part webinar series to identify and share promising and established practices for family caregiver engagement across Ontario. The following is a summary of the first webinar titled “Breaking Barriers –Family Navigation Program” presented by Justean Lebel and Elly Litvak from Family Outreach and Response, a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Toronto. 

What is the Family Navigation Program? 

The Family Navigation Program is a partnership between Family Outreach and Response, a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association - Toronto and St. Joseph’s Health Centre. 

The program provides a model of family support in a primary care setting focused on guiding family members through the complexities of the mental health, substance use, and addiction system. Families can self-refer to the program or can be referred by hospital staff. 

Key objectives of the program include: 

  • improving system navigation for families; 
  • reducing isolation; 
  • increasing one's sense of ability to cope; 
  • reducing wait times; 
  • reducing emergency department visits; and 
  • promoting self-care. 

What types of services does the program include? 

This program is for family members of people who are receiving mental health services at St. Joseph's Health Care in London. It offers the following services and supports:

  • Information and support to navigate hospital and community resources;
  • Help in understanding consent and confidentiality implications of the Mental Health Act;
  • Support in communicating with hospital clinicians; and
  • Recovery-orientated and trauma-informed support in individual and group settings. 

What are the key activities that help make this practice a success? 

To ensure that the Family Navigation Program is a success, organizations can undertake the following activities: 

  • Identify dedicated funding.
  • Develop of a charter outlining the core objectives of the program with the hospital.
  • Engage with key hospital stakeholders to increase their buy-in. 
  • Develop an efficient service delivery model and transparent regulations surrounding confidentiality.
  • Conduct ongoing advocacy and education around best practices and the value of supporting family members. 

What is the evidence to support this program?

Since 2014, the program has served 379 families and has reduced family wait times for services to three business days after referral. 
In the first year, the program had the following outcomes:

  • 75% reduction in emergency department visits for the family member’s loved one;
  • 65% of family members reported decreased isolation when addressing the concerns of their loved one;
  • 70% of family members agreed they felt better equipped to support their family member; and
  • 78% of family members reported improved self-care.

What are the barriers to implementing this program?

Navigating client privacy concerns can be challenging, especially those related to sharing information about clients to their families. In addition, working in a hospital setting requires ongoing outreach and education to encourage buy-in to the program.

Next Steps 

St. Joseph’s Family Navigation Program is moving to implement the following improvements: 

  • Providing recovery education for hospital clinicians;
  • Providing education for emergency department staff on how to work with families, as it is a critical entry point into the mental health and addiction system; and
  • Working to developing a peer support program.

Author: Alexandra Harrison