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Q&A with Cheryl Proc

Toronto, December 23, 2015

By Corinne Ton That

Cheryl Proc, team leader, FOCUS team
Cheryl Proc, team leader, FOCUS team. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Cheryl Proc is a team leader within the FOCUS team at the Sumac Creek Health Centre. She has worked at St. Michael’s Hospital for 13 years.

Q. Tell us about your role and the FOCUS team.
A. The FOCUS team is a multidisciplinary outreach team that works with people with severe and persistent mental illness. It’s a partnership between St. Michael’s Hospital and Cota, a community-based mental health organization. Our clients often face challenges around repeated hospitalizations and need support for their mental health needs. We practice things like medication management and helping people with the activities of daily living. We’re very recovery focused, so we help people with any educational or vocational goals they might have. We also have clients experiencing issues of homelessness, poverty and legal challenges.

Q. What does your average day look like?
A. We start every day with team rounds, where we find out about any issues that happened during the evening shift, and talk about major issues for the day. We have 160 clients – some of those clients we see every day. But every day is different. We see people in the community, in the office, in their homes, and we have some clients who are homeless, so we’ll meet them on the street corner for a conversation and see how we can help them. Most team members see about six or seven clients per day.

Q. Why did you decide to focus on mental health and addictions?
A. I’m a social worker by training. Mental health was a natural fit for me because I was always curious about issues affecting people in society and life. I started at St. Michael’s as a student during my undergraduate studies. I fell in love with the work and the organization and very much believe in what we’re trying to accomplish.

Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
A. To take people to a place where they’re seeing some of their hopes, dreams and goals come true. That’s something that I think I’m really fortunate to be a part of. So it’s very rewarding to be part of someone’s recovery process, and see people move from being in not such a great place in their lives, to experiencing wellness.

Q. Christmas can be a tough time for anyone – especially if you don’t have family. What does the FOCUS team do to help people through the holidays?
A. Many of our clients aren’t connected with family or friends, so they often feel very lonely or isolated. Part of the work we do is making sure people feel supported and cared for. We’re there to help them through what could potentially be a hard time. We go to our clients’ houses, spend time with them and take them to the movies. We also have a client holiday party that we throw at a local community centre in December. So we try to be a part of their lives even during that period. We have about four people on the team who’ll be working on Christmas Day and New Year’s. A big part of our role is making sure people don’t have to be alone. And we try to bring some fun to their care, through outings and parties.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.