“I know that I need to be flexible in my role. I need to be ready when the people are ready,” says Jolene Pagurut, a nurse on the Mobile Support Team in Quesnel.
Pagurut travels to provide mental health and wellness support to three Southern Carrier Nations around Quesnel – Lhoosk’uz, Ndazko, and Lhtako. This Mobile Support Team is a partnership with Northern Health, First Nations Health Authority and the three nations. The communities have renamed this Mobile Support Team “Dakelh Wellness.”
“The best part of this position is the people from the communities I serve — being able to help people along their healing journey in a good way,” says Pagurut. “The support of Northern Health, the community leaders, Elders, and First Nations Health Authority makes it possible to use traditional and creative interventions to meet people where they are at and to help them reach their wellness goals. Really, so much of the success of this program is the partnership with NH and the community leaders.”
Right now, Pagurut is the only team member, but she works very closely with the team of health care professionals that provide primary and community care in Quesnel. A social worker joined Dakelh Wellness on May 15, and they’re looking for a counsellor for the team as well.
Pagurut works to help people overcome the discrepancies in the social determinants of health, including things like low-income, housing, access to food and other challenges with navigating the health care system. She supports individuals who live on and off reserve. Many of them are couch surfing or homeless, and she’ll go to help them where they’re at — in their homes, on the riverbank, in a homeless shelter, or on the street.
Pagurut has also gotten people together to make baked goods for the Elders.
This is Pagurut’s third year in the role, and she’s now better known in the community. She now knows where the people are. Pagurut often receives messages from family members who will let her know they’re worried about a family member and tell her where they can find them. She will go to them, wherever they may be at the time and bring them a coffee or water and sit with them, listen and help with setting goals with where they’re at. The next time she meets with them, she’ll help them move towards their bigger goals.
“My hope is that when I find them somewhere, I’ll leave them in a better place than when I found them,” says Pagurut. “This often involves using harm reduction strategies and lowering barriers to receiving health care. For example, providing naloxone training and kits, or talking to someone who’s using IV heroin about smoking instead, or giving them new needles. The next time I meet them, they might be interested in hearing about the Suboxone program.”
The people that Pagurut works with are overcoming so many challenges; many are homeless or live over two hours away from Quesnel. Some individuals have challenges with reading and writing, and Pagurut is able to help them with filling out forms or better understanding medications. She will also help by taking them to the pharmacy, or connecting with the pharmacist and making a plan to get the medication out to them in the community. They work to help their patients overcome the barriers in creative and meaningful ways.
“Filling a prescription when the person lives two hours away can be like a relay race — we get the prescription at the pharmacy in Quesnel and can get it on a medical van to one community and another community member can bring it to the final destination. We work hard and make it happen,” says Pagurut.
Pagurut also organizes community events as a way for people to disconnect from trauma, stress or anxiety. She recently held a handbag-making workshop. The intent was to train the Elders to make the handbags and then they would teach the youth.
It turned out that some of the Elders were experts at sewing and were farther ahead than expected; they had to provide additional projects for them to work on. The youth also caught on very quickly and were soon helping the Elders. The event was a huge success, with people showing up at 8 a.m. and staying until midnight.
Some of the other work Pagurut does includes managing people with severe and persistent mental illness, working with the methadone doctor and doing Suboxone inductions, and referring individuals or families to treatment. She works with the team of health care professionals in the community and connects patients to the team for other services when needed, and she will also attend doctor’s appointments with the patient. She strongly advocates for the patient.
If she’s already in the community for a visit and something else comes up, like a dressing change on a wound or a baby check, she’ll use Skype or Telehealth and connect the family to a doctor right away.
“I’m working to help people increase their safety and support,” says Pagurut. “I’m a safe person to talk to who can connect them to more people for physical, emotional, mental, spiritual support. I’m building on what’s already there with such resilient people.”
Bailee Denicola is a communications advisor in Northern Health’s Primary Care Department.