In March 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated many rapid changes to service delivery within the community mental health and addiction sector. In order to support agencies, E-QIP launched our #QIOnTheFly initiative to help organizations document the rapid changes they were making to their services in order to continue to support clients and tenants while balancing the need for safety. This Digital Health Week, we are highlighting the inspiring work of E-QIP alumni who rose to face these unprecedented challenges to the community mental health and addiction sector.

Like many organizations, The House of Sophrosyne faced many new challenges and uncertainty at the onset of the pandemic. These challenges were compounded by an increase in demand for services, as the pandemic exacerbated substance use challenges for many Ontarians. Staff at The House of Sophrosyne recognized this need and focused their attention on how to safely provide services to women struggling with substance use disorders under the umbrella of new health and safety guidelines, including adjusting their residential treatment program so that social distancing could be maintained, all while managing increased wait times for services, which was an average of 8 months before the pandemic. 

The House of Sophrosyne stepped up to meet the needs of those dealing with substance use disorders not just in Windsor but across the province by implementing several changes to service delivery. Here we will highlight the shift in the non-residential program to virtual delivery. This change required the utilization of a virtual platform (OTN), purchasing IT equipment for staff and clients including headphones, laptops and cell phones as well as training staff to effectively delivery programming virtually.  Although staff had some previous experience with virtual delivery of services, including their ‘Breaking Free’ program, implementation of these changes presented new barriers including:

  • Equipment procurement: The demand for services resulted in a significant demand for laptops and headphones and the team struggled to equip staff with the technology they needed. As a result, staff found themselves placing bulk orders to meet the high demand.
  • Physical space: With new social distancing requirements, there was simply not enough physical space to even run all virtual groups from the physical location. As a result, staff surveys were conducted to determine which staff could run virtual groups from home and who needed to remain at the House of Sophrosyne to run virtual groups.

Staff also noted several ‘Lessons Learned’ including:

  • Staff quickly got familiar with the platform they were going to use to support their clients by staff teaching each other. 
  • Staff needed time to develop resources to deliver programs virtually, including developing power point presentations, and 
  • Training time required for staff to feel comfortable delivering programs through either OTN or Zoom depending on services being offered.

By pivoting service delivery to a virtual model, The House of Sophrosyne has been able to continue to deliver critical programs to woman across the province throughout the pandemic and their results have been incredibly positive. One program in particular, a virtual Relapse Prevent Program, has received such an overwhelmingly positive response that it has been made a permanent offering in House of Sophrosyne’s suite of services.  One client has this to say about the program:

“I’m taking the time to write to you and express my deep gratitude and appreciation for the Relapse Prevention Program you conducted this past week. As I approach my first 1 year anniversary of abstinence, I’m deeply aware of the incredible healing sobriety has provided, as well as the chance to build a life worth living for myself.  

How can I adequately express the support, comfort and confidence I gained from your Relapse Prevention Program?  I don’t think there are words enough. The program is truly a life-line.

Please pass along my feedback to those in charge of program resourcing at the House to ensure they too know the incredible value of this program and can ensure it continues running in the months & years to come.  It’s so incredibly informative and an invaluable resource for staying on the path!”

Through this experience the staff at The House of Sophrosyne has come to value the impact and many benefits of offering of virtual services as a compliment to their in-person services, including the ability to reach clients wherever they are located in the province. As one staff member noted, “we have reached more people than we thought possible.”

Thank you to the staff at House of Sophrosyne for sharing your story and your dedication to your clients during this challenging time. Your efforts have made a significant difference in the lives of hundreds of Ontarians who struggle with substance use challenges.