On Friday afternoons at the Brodie Resource Library in Thunder Bay, Ont., patrons can now take out books and access some forms of non-emergency health care in the same visit. 

In a room tucked away at the back of the building, street outreach nurses are now setting up for several hours each week, offering services such as sexually transmitted infection testing, wound care, naloxone kit training and counselling. 

"It's about meeting community needs," said Tina Tucker, the director of communities for the Thunder Bay Public Library, adding that people visiting the library are often in need of health or social services that librarians are not equipped to provide.

"I think it's an awesome way for us to be able to deliver a service that would be unexpected in libraries, but is helpful for the people that use us every day."

After noticing the health unit's outreach vehicle parked in the neighbourhood, Tucker said the library asked the nurses if they might like to set up shop inside. 

"I thought it it was a great idea," said Shelley Aretz, a public health nurse with the Thunder Bay District Health Unit.

"We're happy to go wherever people are and meet them where they're at to offer services that are needed."  

They've already connected with some new clients by adding the library to their list of stops, she said. 

It can be difficult for some clients to make their way to clinics, and that's why it's so important to bring health services out into the community, she added.

"It helps to improve health outcomes for a lot of people."

Hosting nurses is just one more way in which the public library is striving to become a true community hub, Tucker said, pointing to other programs and community partnerships that are expanding the range of services offered, including access to a social worker who now holds hours in two library branches. 

The street outreach workers can be found on the second level of the Brodie library on Fridays, between 1 and 3:30 p.m.

 

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