The catchment area of Regional Early Intervention in Psychosis program extends from the James Bay Coast to Bracebridge/Parry Sound, and from Sault Ste Marie to Mattawa. This Northeastern Ontario geography does not facilitate the gathering of family members in person for mutual support and encouragement. After researching other possible means of meeting and communicating, the Regional program chose to bring families together using the Ontario Telemedicine Network – videoconferencing. The use of technology such as videoconferencing is well researched for use as medical and psychiatric consults, and continuing medical education; however, little research has been done on this method of bringing families together for the purpose of creating a networking group. Research of both journals and the internet did not identify any other organizations that used this method to support family members. One other program had attempted to use the media, but it was not able to maintain the group. The networking group is not attended by clinicians unless specifically invited to do so by the families. Families have the freedom to voice their frustrations or accolades of the system amongst each other, and can validate each other’s feelings. The goal is to see this family network develop into an autonomous group of family members who provide peer support to new families in the system, and eventually, to advocate for families within the mental health system. Evaluation of the family networking group is ongoing. Measurable objectives include: • success of meetings: o indicators: number of families attending; frequency of meetings, feedback from families. The average number of participants is 13, with a range from 4 to 36. The frequency of meetings has increased. Feedback forms are completed at all face-to-face meetings (workshops) in order to improve the quality of family services. The development of family supports is identified as a key component of the Early Psychosis Intervention Standards (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2011). From a provincial perspective, the importance of family support is an imperative component in providing best practice services in Ontario. Meeting by videoconference is one method by which rural and remote programs can provide this support to family members.
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