Family CARE grant helps mental health patients in transition


Dan THUNDER BAY – HEALTHBEAT – There is no expiry date on compassion.

That’s the motto that Sandra MacLean lives by, working as a nurse in Adult Mental Health Services at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. MacLean realized that many mental health patients being discharged could use an extra helping hand to help them transition back to home.

“A lot of people don’t go home to nothing, but some do,” MacLean said. Thanks to an idea given to her by Mary Ann Unger at the St. Joseph’s Care Group, MacLean and a group of other Health Sciences Centre staff decided to put together Compassion Kits to give to people who could really use it. “The idea was to come up with things you might need during your first night home after treatment at the Health Sciences Centre.”

Compassion KitThe Compassion Kit contains various items to help patients get a start at home including bath and toiletry items, a book, a light bulb, and something to eat like stew or chilli. These items were donated from local businesses like Eco-Superior, the Great Canadian Superstore, Metro, and Chapters.

The kit also contains things like a bus pass donated by Thunder Bay Transit, information on community services, gift certificates to Robin’s Donuts donated by local churches, and hand-knit hats and gloves.

“We’ve gotten a wonderful response from the community of Thunder Bay,” MacLean said. “They’re answering the need – people have been really generous.”

Community donations cover about half the cost of the kit, but there were some items like the clock radio that had to be purchased. For those, MacLean applied for a Volunteer Association / Health Sciences Foundation Family CARE Grant to cover the remaining costs.

The CARE (Care Advancement Recommended by Employees) Grants are designed to support the dedicated staff throughout the Health Sciences Centre improve patient care. These employee-driven programs are generally smaller grants of up to $2,500 to help make a big difference to patient care where they see a need. This year, the Foundation and Volunteer Association funded 49 staff-driven projects totalling $60,000.

“I went to the social workers in the Health Sciences Centre to see if we should expand the program, or if the program is really even needed,” MacLean said. “They said, ‘Absolutely,’ and gave me recommendations for changes.”

Some of those changes include moving to a recyclable bag from Chapters, and extending the Compassion Kit to patients outside of Mental Health including the Emergency Department, Renal Services, Maternal Child Services, and the Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centre.

MacLean said she has found that 25 kits per year covers the need. If there happens to be anything left over while putting together these kits, they go into a special “compassion cupboard” at Adult Mental Health Services for inpatients and outpatients of the program who may need a toothbrush or another basic item.
“If there is anything left over, it’s never wasted – there’s always a need,” she said.

Your kind gifts to the Health Sciences Foundation helps fund the Family CARE Grants. Help us drive more great programs like this by making your donation today at or by calling us directly at (807) 345-HOPE (4673).

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Graham Strong has worked with clients in a number of different industries including healthcare, legal, PR, retail, software, IT, B2B companies, education, direct mail, and others.