CMHA’s Safe Beds program seeing success

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

It has been two weeks since the Fort Frances Safe Beds program opened for the first time in the Rainy River District. The program is being run by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and their community partners, including the Ontario Provincial Police and Treaty Three Police Services.

Safe Beds is a short-term residential program that provides temporary housing and a safe environment where a person can manage their mental health crisis with the support of trained CMHA experts and other community organizations.

There are currently up to five beds available. The program is located at the Out of the Cold Shelter and has 24-hour onsite staffing.

Jeanna Faykes, Safe Beds lead at CMHA said they have had a few clients since the program opened the first week of November.

“We are learning our way through what the Safe [Beds] program looks like in our building and in our community,” Faykes said. “But we’ve made some really great community connections already. And we’ve had some really, really exciting progress, I think with some of the clients here. It’s exciting to see how this program is already impacting the community in a good way.”

Faykes said clients who use the Safe Beds program are experiencing a mental health crisis and will benefit from receiving psycho-social support in this short-term residential setting. These individuals have to be referred to the program by police or by the mobile crisis team.

A client can stay at the Safe Beds program for a maximum of 30 days, because they are neither a treatment facility nor a shelter. The length of stay depends on the crisis a client is experiencing and measures that need to be put in place, Faykes said.

The program currently has three clients, and Faykes said they are doing a soft launch because she is also educating each of the police platoons from Treaty Three and OPP. The fifth room will remain empty because of COVID-19, so the maximum capacity for the time being is four beds.

“The mobile crisis team has helped us with our referral right now as we transition,” Faykes said. “And then we’ll be open for the police referrals within the next two weeks, once I get all the education done with them.”

This is a sample room of CMHA’s Safe Beds program. After police referrals, clients stay in these rooms for up to 30 days to stabilize their crisis. The program opened the first week of November and its long-term funding allows 24-hour monitoring by staff. – Merna Emara photo

During the client’s stay, Faykes said their goal is to provide support to stabilize the crisis for the individuals referred to the program, usually mental health or addiction-related.

Sometimes, Faykes said, this entails giving the clients a few days to relax and gather themselves because it can be very stressful to go through a traumatic experience of any kind.

“So giving those days and then just reconnecting the client with themselves, their health, their sleep and normal daily patterns,” Faykes added. “If needed, connect them with the nurse practitioner. And hopefully, with some support in place that will make it easier to move forward.”

Faykes said they have been lucky with how the program is running smoothly, but added that a challenge is getting full coverage and becoming familiar with the building, what the building looks like at night and what a shift looks like.

“It’s kind of exciting,” Faykes said. “We’re learning as we go and I have a really excellent team that’s eager and excited. And so far it’s turned into a really good learning opportunity. It’s been really great.”

The clients’ schedule is loosely made, Faykes said. Once clients wake up and get ready for the day, staff have a morning meeting to see where everybody is at and to set plans for the day.

If the clients have community or medical appointments, a staff member accompanies them to those appointments, Faykes said, adding that while everyday is different, three meals are served during the day.

“After lunch, there’s a little bit longer of a programming session that the addiction support worker runs on a specific topic,” Faykes said. “That’s something that everybody can relate to. In the evening, they do one more little group activity just to wind down from the day. And they have some time just to play games, read a book or go on a computer.”

Faykes said they are client-centred and have excellent connections with any community partner who may have a client or a client base.

“I’m very excited to have this program in the district,” Faykes said. “And I’m excited to have opened up overall in December. We’re learning as we go to see how it fits within our district. We’re not the same as the other places that have it, but I’m excited to learn and grow through the experiences that we have as a community. And I know that we’re all excited to be able to help out.”