A recent evaluation shows that the Ontario Common Assessment of Need (OCAN) may help promote self-directed care. OCAN is a standardized, consumer-led decision-making tool that measures consumer needs, as opposed to symptoms. It is intended to make data collection and sharing of information consistent and more accessible for mental health organizations in Ontario by producing a centralized database of service user information.
The evaluation included the feedback of peer workers and consumers in six peer programs in the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) during the pilot phase implementation. In total, 105 consumers and 14 peer workers participated.
Half of consumer participants had previous experience with mental health assessments through other mental health agencies and generally thought the OCAN assessments were better than other needs assessment tools. Consumers shared that OCAN raised their awareness about “new” needs and helped them gain information about community resources and programs, especially those relating to housing and food. A majority of consumers appreciated that peer support workers were there to assist with completing the assessment, which was found to be a necessity for those consumers who needed help with comprehension. There was also strong support for OCAN assessment information being shared among agencies, so that consumers did not have to repeat their stories. However, there was only partial support for sharing with services outside the mental health sector and only if the information was not used against consumers.
None of the peer programs had an assessment process prior to OCAN, and peer workers generally thought it was a good tool for self-directed care. They also shared consumers’ feelings that the OCAN process helped foster stronger relationships between worker and program member. Four of the programs indicated they are making referrals to other programs as a result of OCAN and indicated that new strategic partnerships are developing. However, one of the major complaints among workers was that OCAN software was causing problems with data input and transfer. The other concern was the tension that could arise between the nature of peer programs and the clinical character of OCAN language.
See “Evaluation of the Ontario Common Assessment of Need (OCAN) North East LHIN Consumer/Survivor Programs: Consumer and Staff Perspectives,” March 2010, available at www.ccim.on.ca/cmha/ocan.