The Alex 2019-2020 Annual Report

 

Increasing Access to Care

The Alex 2019-2020 Annual Report

 

Increasing Access to Care

Message from the CEO

Thank you for joining us to learn more about our 2019-2020 year through our Annual Report. Usually at this time of year, I am not only reflecting on the great work done by our team here at The Alex, but also excitedly looking toward to the future. This year feels a little bit different. Of course, we have some wonderful forward-thinking plans, but, as we all know, the future seems more unsure than ever. How long will we be working within this pandemic? What world awaits us on the other side? How will our work fundamentally change – and will it be for the better? There are so many unknowns facing all of us, and that can feel overwhelming. But what gives me comfort is knowing that this team of dedicated, caring staff, of passionate front-line workers, medical professionals and savvy administrators is well positioned to adapt, innovate and lead our community through this crisis. I know this because I have seen the results. We have watched our world turn on its head, and have risen to meet the challenge.

As we put this report together, we knew we had to tell this part of the story. While COVID may have occurred largely outside of our fiscal year end, we could not wait another year to share the results of this work. You will see our pandemic response woven throughout this report, as this is our story, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share it with you.

So what does the future hold for The Alex?

The initiatives we’re spotlighting in this year’s annual report highlight The Alex’s focus on removing barriers to care by creating accessible supports by being in the right place at the right time for our community. Increasing access to care is a priority for all of our programs at The Alex, but is demonstrated through the launch of our new Community Health Bus which brings care to community partners and schools, our Rapid Access Addiction Medicine program which increases access to addiction resources, and our increased access to mental health supports for youth through our ACCESS Open Minds partnership.

As you read this report, you are seeing the foundations laid for our priorities around increased medical and social integration, furthering our wellness initiatives and our commitment to improving the quality of life for those who walk through our doors.

Thank you for being part of our journey.

– Joy Bowen-Eyre, CEO

 

Message from the Board Chair

The Board of Directors is proud to stand with our staff at The Alex and support an organization that is constantly shifting, adapting, and fearlessly working towards health and wellness equity and inclusion for all Calgarians.   

When called upon, The Alex leaps into action. Each of our over 400 team members is committed to  walking with our community members from challenge to change. Their efforts make immense differences in peoples’ lives and we thank them all for being part of The Alex family. 

Reflecting on where we find ourselves moving forward, its clearer now more than ever that big change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and no one can do this work alone. So we look to our supporters –government partners, corporate friends and foundations and individual donors – and thank them for believing in the work we do, and for helping us move forward. 

This report is a document of where we have been, and where we are going, with a reflection on how we have adapted to a global shift in public health, and a demonstration of our commitment to be there, be strong, and be an organization you trust. Thank you for being our partner.  

– Doug Page, Board Chair

Message from the CEO

Thank you for joining us to learn more about our 2019-2020 year through our Annual Report. Usually at this time of year, I am not only reflecting on the great work done by our team here at The Alex, but also excitedly looking toward to the future. This year feels a little bit different. Of course, we have some wonderful forward-thinking plans, but, as we all know, the future seems more unsure than ever. How long will we be working within this pandemic? What world awaits us on the other side? How will our work fundamentally change – and will it be for the better? There are so many unknowns facing all of us, and that can feel overwhelming. But what gives me comfort is knowing that this team of dedicated, caring staff, of passionate front-line workers, medical professionals and savvy administrators is well positioned to adapt, innovate and lead our community through this crisis. I know this because I have seen the results. We have watched our world turn on its head, and have risen to meet the challenge.

As we put this report together, we knew we had to tell this part of the story. While COVID may have occurred largely outside of our fiscal year end, we could not wait another year to share the results of this work. You will see our pandemic response woven throughout this report, as this is our story, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share it with you.

So what does the future hold for The Alex?

The initiatives we’re spotlighting in this year’s annual report highlight The Alex’s focus on removing barriers to care by creating accessible supports by being in the right place at the right time for our community. Increasing access to care is a priority for all of our programs at The Alex, but is demonstrated through the launch of our new Community Health Bus which brings care to community partners and schools, our Rapid Access Addiction Medicine program which increases access to addiction resources, and our increased access to mental health supports for youth through our ACCESS Open Minds partnership.

As you read this report, you are seeing the foundations laid for our priorities around increased medical and social integration, furthering our wellness initiatives and our commitment to improving the quality of life for those who walk through our doors.

Thank you for being part of our journey.

– Joy Bowen-Eyre, CEO

 

Message from the Board Chair

The Board of Directors is proud to stand with our staff at The Alex and support an organization that is constantly shifting, adapting, and fearlessly working towards health and wellness equity and inclusion for all Calgarians.

When called upon, The Alex responds. Each of our over 400 team members is committed to walking with our community members from challenge to change. Their efforts make immense differences in peoples’ lives and we thank them all for being part of The Alex family.

Reflecting on where we find ourselves moving forward, it’s clearer now more than ever that big change doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and no one can do this work alone. So we look to our supporters – government partners, corporate friends, foundations and individual donors – and thank them for believing in the work we do, and for helping us move forward.

This report is a document of where we have been, and where we are going, with a reflection on how we have adapted to a global shift in public health, and a demonstration of our commitment to be there, be strong, and be an organization you trust. Thank you for being our partner.

– Doug Page, Board Chair

Spotlight on…

Mobile Health

teens visited our Youth Health Bus in 2019/20

children were provided with dental education

Our fleet of mobile health buses put us on the map in 2001, and have since been a stalwart of our programming, demonstrating the power of accessible, responsive health care mixed with strong social supports. The Community and Youth Health Buses act as mini community health centres, bringing wraparound care to those who may find challenges accessing or navigating the traditional health care system, and our Dental Health Bus targets families without access to dental benefits, helping children reclaim their bright smiles.

This year, with thanks to TELUS Health, the oldest member of our fleet got a new lease on life in December with the re-launch of our Community Health Bus. The Community Health Bus serves in areas of high need, providing a safe, welcoming opportunity to make the first step to wellness for those without a family doctor.

The brand-new retrofitted RV stocked with medical supplies, as well as a friendly doctor, nurse and social support resource specialist, has allowed us to expand our support into community centres, partner agencies, and local high schools, supplementing the schedule of the Youth Health Bus.

The Youth Health Bus, in partnership with the Calgary Board of Education, saw over 700 unique youth last year and has continued to serve high schools across the city with judgement-free, accessible support for teens who need someone to talk to about their physical, sexual and mental health needs. The Dental Health Bus served 1149 young people with preventative and restorative dental services, and provided 3311 children with dental education at their school. 

Twinkle’s Story

Twinkle was very nervous her first time visiting The Alex Youth Health Bus as a high school student. She didn’t know exactly what she needed, but she knew she needed help. Going to any doctor was nerve-wracking for Twinkle, but she liked that the bus was an RV built into a doctor’s office and that it was parked right outside her school. She mustered up the courage to give it a try.

The staff on the bus instantly made her feel more comfortable. They were friendly but not invasive, took the time to listen, and talked her through everything. All her nervousness disappeared.

During this time, Twinkle was homeless, living on the streets and just trying to get by.

“I was just always in survival mode. You’re waiting for the next thing to happen again and again. I didn’t know how to pay bills, do taxes, or even take care of myself.”

Twinkle quickly realized that though she could access medical care from the staff on the Youth Health Bus, they were eager to support with so much more.

“They helped with things that regular doctors don’t usually help with – things like housing, food needs, everything. It’s really nice.”

With the help of The Alex Youth Health Bus, Twinkle has become the successful young person she knew she could be. She’s currently working at TELUS, she’s been exercising, eating healthy, and thinking about going back to school for nursing.

“I’ve never been in such a calm, stable space in my life. It’s almost like weird to me. The Alex changed my life. I think without them I wouldn’t have been able to finish school or be where I am today without their support.”

Spotlight on…

Rapid Access Addiction Medicine
(RAAM)

Thanks to funding provided by the Government of Canada and Alberta Health Services, The Alex is now providing Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) services in addition to its existing comprehensive health, housing and social programs.

RAAM is intended to fill a void in the addiction treatment system by providing immediate access to evidence-based addiction care. The program is low-barrier, meaning anyone with a substance use disorder, regardless of household income, can access the service. When an individual walks in for their initial intake appointment, they are immediately met with an intake specialist, and often begin their program that very same day. RAAM is person-centred, and the team will work with them to go over a wide range of options and co-develop a treatment plan. That plan includes short-term, time-limited case management support, working to identify goals, and providing the support to reach them. Having RAAM as part of our primary care network allows for fast, safe, effective treatment of addiction, in a way that sets the individual up for success by providing medically assisted support as well as a full scope of mental health supports.

John’s* story

What is the best birthday gift you have received? For John* it was a gift he gave to himself – walking into the RAAM clinic on his 45th birthday to ask for help with his alcohol addiction. A professional, with a family, mortgage and all the rest, John had been hiding his addiction, and struggling with self-perception and intense feelings of shame. Like many people, John was trying to manage on his own, and would find himself in a pattern of returning to alcohol and feeling like he failed himself and his family.

When he walked into RAAM, our team was able to see him immediately, prescribe medication to help with his current withdrawal symptoms, and to begin a plan to move him out of the cycle of relapse and onto a sustainable path of healing. John has now been the first graduate of our program, and is back on track with his job, his family and his life.

It is the combination of quick access, and a collaboration from medical and social teams that makes RAAM so successful.

“Addiction should be better integrated into primary care. It is a chronic disease just like diabetes or heart disease.” said Tracy Dafoe of our RAAM clinic. “Addiction is not a mystery, it is caused by genetic predisposition, trauma and other factors. When we demystify the addiction, we can stop looking at it as a ‘character defect’ and see and treat the whole person.”

*Name changed to protect privacy

Spotlight on…

Access Open
Minds
(AOM)

%

of youth were at high risk of substance use dependency

%

had significantly reduced scores 6-12 months later

ACCESS Open Minds (AOM) is a pan-Canadian network that is improving youth mental health services and understanding their impact in diverse communities from coast to coast to coast. This year, with funding support by The City of Calgary, The Alex Youth Health Centre became the 16th ACCESS Open Minds site to operate in Canada.

Being invited to join this network allows us to build on local strengths to improve mental health services for youth. Collectively, each site uses standardized service and evaluation components to ensure we are meeting the needs of our community.

The AOM model uses ensures youth get help as soon as possible through walk-in, phone or email, and are fully supported and connected to the right services. The youth and their families or caregivers are engaged in the design of their service plan and are partners in their care. With continuous evaluation, we are best able to evaluate and respond to any needed changes.

Not all youth who visit the YHC experience poor quality of life, but many do. And The Alex can help. For youth at The Alex, the ability to connect with the AOM team has made significant changes in their trajectory. After receiving counseling through our Access Open Minds program, quality of life improved significantly in the areas of family relationships, living arrangements, social relationships, and overall quality of life among those with low scores at intake.

In 2019-20, 84% of youth served by the YHC presented with some level of psychological distress, with 42% presenting with moderate to high levels of distress, indicating very poor mental health.*

Among the youth who received counseling, youth outcomes improved, with emotional dysregulation problems, such as impulsivity and aggression, declining significantly.

AOM has also been a significant factor in supporting youth at high-risk for substance-use dependency. Over 60% of youth coming to the YHC were at moderate to high risk of a substance abuse disorder.**

Six to 12 months later, among those for whom data were available, 38% of those at risk had significantly reduced risk scores, and none of those at low risk to begin with were worse off at follow up.

*as measured by the OQ-10
** as measured by the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) Short Screener Substance Disorder Subscale.

Spotlight on…

Access Open
Minds
(AOM)

ACCESS Open Minds (AOM) is a pan-Canadian network that is improving youth mental health services and understanding their impact in diverse communities from coast to coast to coast. This year, with funding support by The City of Calgary, The Alex Youth Health Centre became the 16th ACCESS Open Minds sites to operate in Canada.

Being invited to join this network allows us to build on local strengths to improve mental health services for youth. Collectively, each site uses standardized service and evaluation components to ensure we are meeting the needs of our community.

The AOM model uses ensures youth get help as soon as possible through walk-in, phone or email, and are fully supported and connected to the right services. The youth and their families or caregivers are engaged in the design of their service plan and are partners in their care. With continuous evaluation, we are best able to evaluate and respond to any needed changes.

Not all youth who visit the YHC experience poor quality of life, but many do. And The Alex can help. For youth at The Alex, the ability to connect with the AOM team has made significant changes in their trajectory. After receiving counseling through our Access Open Minds program, quality of life improved significantly in the areas of family relationships, living arrangements, social relationships, and overall quality of life among those with low scores at intake.

In 2019-20, 84% of youth served by the YHC presented with some level of psychological distress, with 42% presenting with moderate to high levels of distress, indicating very poor mental health.*

Among the youth who received counseling, youth outcomes improved, with emotional dysregulation problems, such as impulsivity and aggression, declining significantly.

AOM has also been a significant factor in supporting youth at high-risk for substance-use dependency. Over 60% of youth coming to the YHC were at moderate to high risk of a substance abuse disorder.**

Six to 12 months later, among those for whom data were available, 38% of those at risk had significantly reduced risk scores, and none of those at low risk to begin with were worse off at follow up.

*as measured by the OQ-10
** as measured by the Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) Short Screener Substance Disorder Subscale.

%

of youth were at high risk of substance use dependency

%

had significantly reduced scores 6-12 months later

Alex’s Program Snapshots

We’re very proud of the incredible programs and services we offer to members of our community. Below is a snapshot of some of our other programs and supports.

Community Food Centre

The Alex Community Food Centre (CFC) located in the heart of Forest Lawn, offers food access, food skills and education and engagement programs in a dignified and welcoming space that brings the community together to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food.

In 2019, CFC offered four food access programs: Drop-in Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and a mobile market in partnership with Fresh Routes. Food skills programs included Kids Grow, Cook, Create, International Ave Kitchen, Kids in the Kitchen, Healthy on a Budget, FoodFit, Wild Stew with the Crew, Teens Cook!, Level Ground Drop-in Gardening, Green Kids Gardening and Intro to Gardening. Education and engagement programs included our Peer Advocacy Office and Youth Hub.

Our annual program survey was conducted through a series of in-person interviews with 75 adult participants from a variety of our programs. When asked “What has changed for you because of your involvement with The Alex CFC?” the most common answers given by participants were that they were more sociable and involved in their community, their health and wellbeing had improved, and that they had gained new knowledge and skills.

“Because of the CFC, I’m happier, lighter, brighter. Not as down, not as dismal. I’m more alive. I’ve lost weight. I have a healthier heart, mind and body.”

Housing

Homelessness is a harsh reality in Calgary, and, given the right circumstances, it can happen to anyone. Many of our community members face complex issues related to physical health, mental health and addictions – all contributing factors to homelessness. Through a Housing First model, we believe in giving people a home first, so they can have a safe and stable environment to work through these challenges. We work in partnership with Calgary Homeless Foundation and a vast and collaborative network of partners to provide four programs based on this model: HomeBase, Pathways to Housing, Prelude and Abbeydale Place.

This year, we relocated our Housing Lounge to a new area in our Community Health Centre. It is now fondly named “The Living Room.” This light filled space was thoughtfully decorated and resourced to allow participants to regain the feeling of intimacy and safety previously experienced at our original building. We also added a dedicated medical clinic, which makes consultations and collaboration much easier.

To better support our staff and participants in the process of loss and grief experienced in this line of work, we established our Housing First Celebration of Life in July 2019. This annual event provides space for acknowledging those who had passed away while in our programs and allows us to collectively share and honour our grief.

In addition, in response to the pandemic, we worked in partnership with the Government of Alberta, City of Calgary, Calgary Homeless Foundation, AHS, HomeSpace, CUPS and our sheltering partners to develop and operate Calgary’s Assisted Self-Isolation site which is providing a safe and comfortable place for people to self-isolate who are impacted by COVID-19 and experiencing homelessness.

Housing

Homelessness is a harsh reality in Calgary, and, given the right circumstances, it can happen to anyone. Many of our community members face complex issues related to physical health, mental health and addictions – all contributing factors to homelessness. Through a Housing First model, we believe in giving people a home first, so they can have a safe and stable environment to work through these challenges. We work in partnership with Calgary Homeless Foundation and a vast and collaborative network of partners to provide four programs based on this model: HomeBase, Pathways to Housing, Prelude and Abbeydale Place.

This year, we relocated our Housing Lounge to a different section of the building. It is now fondly named “The Living Room.” This light filled space was thoughtfully decorated and resourced to allow participants to regain the feeling of intimacy and safety previously experienced at our original building. We also added a dedicated medical clinic, which makes consultations and collaboration much easier.

To better support our staff and participants in the process of loss and grief experienced in this line of work, we established our Housing First Celebration of Life in July 2019. This annual event provides space for acknowledging those who had passed away while in our programs and allows us to collectively share and honour our grief.

In addition, in response to the pandemic, we worked in partnership with the Government of Alberta, City of Calgary, Calgary Homeless Foundation, AHS, HomeSpace, CUPS and our sheltering partners to develop and operate Calgary’s Assisted Self-Isolation site which is providing a safe and comfortable place for people to self-isolate who are impacted by COVID-19 and experiencing homelessness.

Our Health Centres

Community Health Centre

Our Community Health Centre is the heart and soul of our primary health care programs. This year 2221 patients came for 21,353 visits with our team of doctors and nurse practitioners.

Seniors Health Centre

Located in the East Village, our Seniors Health Centre provides continuous care for those aged 55+ with complex health issues. 

Youth Health Centre

Our Youth Health Centre welcomes youth aged 12-24, providing judgement-free health care and social supports. 

Spotlight on…

Wellness Initiatives

For Kellie Keefer-Beck, volunteering as part of our wellness initiative was a natural next step in her connection with The Alex. As a neighbour of an Alex family doctor, Kellie started her Alex journey supporting an annual fundraiser hosted by Dr. Deb.

When Kellie began her teacher training in Vinyasa yoga, her aspiration was to become a yoga volunteer. Soon after, she began volunteering with our Community Wellness programs providing twice-weekly yoga and mindfulness classes for our community members.

“I know yoga and mindfulness can be intimidating. There is an intimacy with yourself that necessitates a safe space to reflect and relax, so in my trauma-informed practice I’ve developed verbal cues that allow for personal space. My biggest reward is being part of a community that was created by community.”

We have made wellness a priority area this year, for both our community and our staff, knowing that actively engaging in activities that provide reduced stress, community connection and overall wellbeing are critical parts of a good health strategy.

Staff Wellness Initiative

The Alex recognizes how vital self-care is for our staff, many of whom are working on the front-lines of social issues like homelessness, poverty, addictions and mental health. This year we further formalized our commitment to staff wellness by starting a Wellness Committee to allow staff to share ideas of what wellness means to them, recognizing we all have different ways we relax and recharge. Shifts in HR policies reflected these changes, as we moved from “sick days” to “wellness days” and encouraged staff to use this time not just for physical health, but for mental health as well.

Community Wellness

Many of the people who come to The Alex require care that goes beyond a traditional visit to a health clinic. Many of our neighbours are experiencing serious inter-related challenges with poverty, social exclusion, physical and mental health, depression and anxiety, and substance abuse. For many, a visit with a physician is not their only need, and often it’s not even their most pressing need.
Our Community Wellness Initiative has been in-development and will seek to enhance access to upstream, high-impact social and wellness programming and address immediate social, emotional and basic needs. As always, the journey at The Alex begins with connection, community, and dignity first and foremost. We listen and understand each person’s needs, and critical concerns such as housing instability, food security, and social isolation can be addressed.

Spotlight on…

Wellness Initiatives

We have made wellness a priority area this year, for both our community and our staff, knowing that actively engaging in activities that provide reduced stress, community connection and overall wellbeing are critical parts of a good health strategy.

Staff Wellness Initiative

The Alex recognizes how vital self-care is for our staff, many of whom are working on the front-lines of social issues like homelessness, poverty, addictions and mental health. This year we further formalized our commitment to staff wellness by starting a Wellness Committee to allow staff to share ideas of what wellness means to them, recognizing we all have different ways we relax and recharge. Shifts in HR policies reflected these changes, as we moved from “sick days” to “wellness days” and encouraged staff to use this time not just for physical health, but for mental health as well.

Community Wellness

Many of the people who come to The Alex require care that goes beyond a traditional visit to a health clinic. Many of our neighbours are experiencing serious inter-related challenges with poverty, social exclusion, physical and mental health, depression and anxiety, and substance abuse. For many, a visit with a physician is not their only need, and often it’s not even their most pressing need.
Our Community Wellness Initiative has been in-development and will seek to enhance access to upstream, high-impact social and wellness programming and address immediate social, emotional and basic needs. As always, the journey at The Alex begins with connection, community, and dignity first and foremost. We listen and understand each person’s needs, and critical concerns such as housing instability, food security, and social isolation can be addressed.

For Kellie Keefer-Beck, volunteering as part of our wellness initiative was a natural next step in her connection with The Alex. As a neighbour of an Alex family doctor, Kellie started her Alex journey supporting an annual fundraiser hosted by Dr. Deb.

When Kellie began her teacher training in Vinyasa yoga, her aspiration was to become a yoga volunteer. Soon after, she began volunteering with our Community Wellness programs providing twice-weekly yoga and mindfulness classes for our community members.

“I know yoga and mindfulness can be intimidating. There is an intimacy with yourself that necessitates a safe space to reflect and relax, so in my trauma-informed practice I’ve developed verbal cues that allow for personal space. My biggest reward is being part of a community that was created by community.”

We love our volunteers!

At The Alex we welcome volunteers of all skills and interests to support our programming. From serving meals at our Community Food Centre to driving seniors to appointments, each volunteer brings their expertise, warm smile and commitment to helping their community, and we can’t thank them enough!

Here are just a few of the roles volunteers filled in the past year…

We love our volunteers!

At The Alex we welcome volunteers of all skills and interests to support our programming. From serving meals at our Community Food Centre to driving seniors to appointments, each volunteer brings their expertise, warm smile and commitment to helping their community, and we can’t thank them enough!

Here are just a few of the roles volunteers filled in the past year…

Tax Clinics at The Alex

One of our most popular volunteer-led programs is our tax clinic. Supported by volunteer accountants, the tax clinics help Alex community members file their taxes.

25% of those filing were lifted above the poverty line simply by filing their taxes and receiving benefits they were entitled to! The most common benefits included the GST rebate (92%), Alberta Carbon Tax Rebate (90%), Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (35%), and Canada Pension Plan (30%).

volunteers contributed

hours

Thank you!

The Alex is a registered charity made possible by funding we receive from our government and health system partners, public and private foundations and associations, and generous corporate and private donors. We’re grateful for the supporters who power the incredible work we do. 

To see our full list of donors and supporters, please visit thealex.ca/supporters

Our Mission

Delivering innovative and accessible health and social solutions

Our Vision

A community of healthy individuals

Board of Directors

Doug Page, Chair
Dustin Owens, Vice Chair
Jeff Meunier, Secretary
Janice Anderson, Treasurer

Barbara Boyer, Director
David Pickersgill, Director
Danielle Ayana James, Director
Laura Brown, Director
Judy MacDonald, Director

Donate

Your support goes a long way at The Alex, and there are many ways that you can make a positive change in someone else’s life! 

Support us at thealex.ca/donate

The Alex

Administration
#101 2840 2 Ave SE
Calgary AB T2A 7X9
403-520-2260
info@thealex.ca
CRA# 13282 4905 RR0001

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