When in-person services were reduced as a result of COVID-19, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ottawa Branch launched Project Connection, an effort to distribute smartphones to clients who otherwise had no access to virtual care.
While intensive case management and outreach services have returned to in-person in recent months, thanks to Project Connection, CMHA Ottawa has been able to continue seeing many clients through videoconferencing to mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Traditionally, access to virtual services has been a challenge for many individuals due to barriers such as poverty, homelessness and internet costs. Project Connection is working to level that playing field.
As of February 2021, CMHA Ottawa has already provided about 250 smartphones to clients who don’t otherwise have access to a device or the internet.
Clients who receive phones also get a two-page handout introducing them to their phone along with recovery-focused suggestions for how to use them.
Additionally, CMHA Ottawa has created the Tech Buddies program. Tech Buddies are staff who know the technology and they support front-line staff and the client to ensure virtual care runs smoothly.
Project Connection has helped many clients through isolation as a result of COVID-19. Clients have re-established lost connections with friends and family, maintained their physical health concerns with regular medical check-ins, and downloaded apps targeted at health and wellness. These phones are also a source of information and entertainment.