A local clinic takes care of people and their pets on the DTES

“They are with this animal 24/7 and often this animal is the only family they have.”

“Some of them say, ‘My dog ​​is the reason I get up every day. ”

UBC Clinical Instructor Kelsi Jessamine helped launch the Community Veterinary Outreach program in Vancouver in 2003. The program, which is located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, aims to improve the lives of people in Vancouver. the community by also helping their best four-legged animal. friends.

For homeless people, their pets can mean anything to them.

“The relationship between a vulnerable person housed or living on the fringes of society – the relationship they have with their pet is often stronger than, say, someone in the general population,” Jessamine said. Vancouver is awesome. “They are with this animal 24/7 and often this animal is the only family they have.”

Community Veterinary Outreach is a registered charity that was founded by veterinarian Dr. Michelle Lem in Ontario in 2003. In 2003, Jessamine took the initiative to start a program locally.

Now Jessamine runs the CVO One Health clinics with veterinarian Dr Doris Leung. The program, which is supported by a UBC Community University Engagement Support (CUES) grant, offers a series of free “One Health” veterinary clinics that provide pro bono veterinary care while meeting the health needs of marginalized pet owners.

For community nurses, reaching clients can be one of the most difficult parts of the approach. Through these free clinics, however, nurses are able to provide primary care services to people they might not otherwise be able to reach, through their pets.

Leung says, “The animal gives us this point of connection with the person. This provides openness and begins to build trust with people who most likely have mental health issues, who likely have chronic health issues. “

Pets provide emotional support for mental health

While community members may find it hard to trust people right away, they would open up more when Jessamine took her dog Malakhai to a shelter in the Downtown Eastside.

“Due to their life circumstances, they can be very careful,” she says. “And then they saw the dog, then all of a sudden something changed.

“They are on the floor [and] stroke the dog [and] tell you about the animals they had growing up. “

A community member named Robert adopted an abused pit bull he named Pretty Girl. After her mobility issues progressed, he made the decision to find her another loving home.

In a happy turn of events, CVO volunteer and UBC nursing graduate Tiana Stuart adopted the young female pit bull crossbreed. As a volunteer with the Overdose Prevention Society and a community nurse in the Downtown East Side, Tiana enjoys bringing Pretty Girl with her whenever she can, including on visits with her former owner and lifeguard Robert.

Robert and pretty girl. Photo by Trey Helton

“The animal gives us that point of connection with the person.”

In addition to providing companionship, Jessamine says pets are a “basic force” in keeping their owners healthy.

And Leung adds that most pets are also healthy. “The animals we see are actually not malnourished and they are very well socialized because they interact with animals and humans on a daily basis.

“They are also generally well muscled and they are generally not obese because they are walked around daily.”

Provided in partnership with a number of community partners, CVO One Health clinics get their name from their innovative approach of providing interdisciplinary health services and support to clients, notes UBC Community Engagement. While the events focus on providing pro bono veterinary care, they also act as a way to meet the health needs of marginalized pet owners. “The animal gives us that point of connection with the person,” says Leung. “It provides an opening and starts to build trust with people who most likely have mental health issues, who probably have chronic health issues.”

In Vancouver, UBC faculty and students in various health disciplines work alongside veterinarians at free clinics to offer care or provide referrals and resources to ensure clients receive the follow-up care they need. they need.

About Hector Hedgepeth

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