Protection of Privacy

Respecting the privacy of our clients’ personal information is an important part of the work we do at The Vitanova Foundation. To that end, we are committed to collecting, using, and disclosing such information only as prescribed by law, and in a manner that is both open and transparent.

Our list of Clients’ Rights includes the right “…to personal personal privacy, and to have information shared with staff treated as confidential, except as may be required by law, or for purposes that do not involve client-specific indicators.”

In recognition of that right, we have developed the following policies and practices.

  1. Practices to protect privacy and safeguard personal information

Obtaining the consent of a client: 

When a client is admitted to our day-treatment program, the intake worker or the client’s primary counselor will request that the client sign consent forms that will allow the counselor to speak with people that are part of the client’s support circle. The client has the right to choose for whom he/she would like to give consent. It is the client’s right to refuse to provide consent that would allow his/her primary counsellor to share the client’s personal health information in some cases. Clients also have the right to revoke consent at any time. There may be times when a client is uncomfortable sharing all details to those that the client has given consent to the primary counselor to speak to. The client can choose to `lock` certain parts of his/her personal health information (e.g., require a counsellor not to disclose certain information to the client’s parents, etc.)

Preventing unauthorized access to all types of client information:
Vitanova uses closed servers and protected databases for storing client information. As well, all hard copies of client information are stored in double locked areas.

System to track clients’ withdrawal of consent:
In the event that a client revokes or rescinds his/her consent, his/her primary counselor will make a note in the client’s record, void the consent form, and inform all other staff.

Notifying clients in the case of unauthorized theft, loss, access to, use or disclosure of client information:
Clients will be notified either by mail or at their next appointment in the case of unauthorized theft, loss, access to, use or disclosure of client information.

Client Access to Client Files
Clients are able to access a copy of the documents in their files for purposes of review within thirty (30) days of the request, or sixty (60) days in the case of complex searches. Clients can request a correction of any information in their file or obtain a copy of the contents of their files However, clients must be aware that Vitanova is unable to release any third party information held in the file (i.e., information in one client’s file that may identify another client). Lastly, clients can request assistance in interpreting their files.

Clients protecting the Privacy of Other Clients
Our pledge to protect the privacy of our clients extends to our clients protecting the privacy of other clients as well. Briefly stated, information of any sort that will result in persons outside of Vitanova knowing who is attending and participating at Vitanova is never to be disclosed by clients, as this violates the privacy of all clients. 

Circumstances in which information may be disclosed

There are circumstances in which client information may be disclosed:

  • For purposes of research, providing that client-specific indicators are deleted
  • Quality improvement, providing client-specific indicators are deleted
  • Routine management and professional supervision of staff
  • Responding to a police request of information; there may be a time when police request personal information about a client. In the event that a warrant or subpoena is issued for a client’s records, Vitanova is legally bound to provide information to the police. Vitanova may seek legal advice on this matter if there is any uncertainty about the request.

Procedure for making a complaint regarding a breach of privacy

If anyone has a concern and/or wishes to make a complaint to us about our privacy practices, including any questions or concerns about the contents of his/her personal file, a request must be made in writing, addressed to the Privacy Officer (who is the Executive Director) and delivered by hand or via post, facsimile, or electronic mail (to info@vitanova.ca). Please ensure that the request is directed specifically to The Privacy Officer.
The Privacy Officer will acknowledge your concern/complaint in writing, and will ensure that it is thoroughly investigated. As well, you will be provided with a formal decision in writing, including the reason for the decision, in a timely fashion.
If you are dissatisfied with the decision you may appeal it to the Board of Directors of The Vitanova Foundation. Depending on the time between your appeal to the Board and its next meeting, your appeal may be expedited by the Executive Committee of the Board, or by the Chair of the Board alone.
If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your appeal, you may seek further information, from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, at 112 Kent Street, Ottawa K1A 1H3 (Toll free telephone: 1-800-282-1376; facsimile 1-613-947-6850).
Vitanova’s privacy policies and procedures—copies of which are available on request from the Executive Director or his/her delegate—comply with the federal government’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

How to contact Vitanova’s privacy contact person

The initial contact person regarding all privacy matters is the Program Director who can be contacted at 905-850-3690, extension 231 or via email to the attention of the program director at info@vitanova.ca.

Client Profile

Our day program clients come from every sort of background. Each year, we take a “snapshot” of them, to get an idea of what constitutes our average client at a particular point in time. Data collected reflects our on-going interest in what are called the social determinants of health: education, employment, housing, and so on. The highlights of a recent “snapshot” questionnaire are as follows:
Education: Of our current clients—97% of whom are males with an average age of 31 years—the average client completed grade 10. Approximately half attended a post-secondary trade school or program for about two years, with only half of these completing a program. This is reflected in the percentage of those sampled who describe themselves as drop-outs (78%).  On the other hand, when asked to rate on a ten-point scale their odds of future success if they returned to school after completing their program at Vitanova, the average score was 8.6.
Employment: The average age at which our current clients first worked part-time was 13, and full-time, 17. They report they have been unemployed, on average, for more than a quarter of the last five years (60 months). Half were unemployed when they came to Vitanova (on average for over 12 months), with nearly two-thirds of those collecting Employment Insurance, for about the same length of time. Approximately half report that being unemployed was one reasons they came to Vitanova. When asked to rate their odds of future employment success after completing their program at Vitanova, the average score was 9.6.
Self-employment: Almost 15% of our current clients were self-employed before coming to Vitanova. According to this sub-set of respondents, 85% of their businesses are no longer operating. Asked to rate their chances of self-employment success after attending at Vitanova, the average score was 8.2.
Referral: Those who were referred to Vitanova, via an employee or union-member assistance plan, were asked to rate the importance of their recovery at Vitanova to continued full-time employment. The average score was 8.2
Homelessness: Of those clients sheltered on-site, over 21% were actually homeless at admission, 79% were at risk or threat of becoming homeless; 69% have a place to live after Vitanova (72% of those “permanently”, 22% “temporarily”, and 6% “uncertain”).  About 31% of our shelter clients will need help in finding affordable post-discharge housing, making them candidates for our transition program—where they continue to reside on-site while working to save first and last month’s rent. When asked to rate the importance of our transition program to securing permanent housing, the average score was 6.8
Financial Status: On average, clients have about $7,250 in savings, but about $17,500 in debts, with some owing money to illegal sources—on average $3,800. Thirty percent have owned their own homes, but only 15% do so now. Less than half have ever had any type of financial literacy training. When asked to rate the financial literary training offered at Vitanova, the average score was 6.1.
Social Assistance: Approximately 25% of shelter clients are receiving Ontario Works, on average for five months, about half the length of time they were previously receiving Ontario Works.  When asked to rate the importance of recovery to not having to depend on such support in the future, the average score was 6.9.
Criminal Justice Issues: Over 90% of clients have been charged with a criminal offence or offences, on average nearly five separate times, with 44% having received Legal Aid services. When asked to rate the importance of their recovery to a crime-free life, the average score was 8.9.

Clients’ Rights

  1. To be treated with dignity and respect as a unique person—with strengths, weaknesses, natural talents and learned skills; as the person whose welfare is at the heart of Vitanova

Every client of The Vitanova Foundation has the right:

  • To receive services in an environment that is safe and secure
  • To make a complaint, without fear or threat of retaliation, and to have it dealt with appropriately in a timely manner
  • To be recognized as a member of a family, a circle of friends, a community—with diverse social, cultural and spiritual needs, preferences, and aspirations
  • To be accepted no matter what his/her values and beliefs, treated without discrimination or harassment, and accommodated to the maximum extent possible consistent with Vitanova’s resources
  • To be informed about and oriented to Vitanova’s approach to treatment
  • To be assigned a primary counsellor with whom the client will develop, monitor, and adjust, as appropriate, an individualized treatment plan
  • To be involved in decisions about the services offered and received, including the right to refuse or discontinue receiving services
  • To be engaged in shaping the programs and services we offer now or in future
  • To personal privacy, and to have information shared with staff treated as confidential, except as may be required by law, or for purposes that do not involve client-specific indicators

Clients’ Code of Conduct

As created by Vitanova clients at a workshop held in March 2014.

When you first come to Vitanova:
Remember that everyone has the right to be accepted, yourself included
Treat everyone with the respect with which you want to be treated
Put your trust in the process that lies ahead
Be honest with yourself and others
Work with other clients
Do not bully anyone
Respect this house
Be open to change
Be attentive
Be punctual
Be positive
Participate
Be patient
As you continue at Vitanova:
Respect other people’s property
Respect the space you occupy
Act with integrity and humility
Demonstrate self-discipline
Be genuine and authentic
Cooperate with others
Don’t be a hypocrite
Listen and respond
Maintain balance
Be a team player
Be empathetic
Be forgiving
Be polite
Be tidy
As your time at Vitanova nears its end:
Demonstrate compassion and understanding every day
Resolve differences with maturity and assertiveness
Be positive and affirm your spirituality
Practice what you preach
Be non-judgmental
Take responsibility
Lead by example
Show initiative
Help others

Clients’ Complaints / Service Resolution

The Vitanova Foundation strives to provide exceptional service to all of our clients.  However, there are times when clients may not be satisfied with the services received or a decision made by Vitanova.  Vitanova will ensure that clients have the opportunity to express complaints without concern for repercussions.  Vitanova will make every effort to resolve any and all complaints in a fair, respectful, and timely manner.

A “complaint” is a client or visitor’s concern that arises from actual or specific experience.  General complaints might be about:

  • Services: issues about the processes by which programs and services are delivered
  • Service Accessibility: issues regarding access to a program or service
  • Service Coordination: the extent to which staff communicate appropriately with each other and/or external partners and work as a team to provide seamless service
  • Information: the extent to which written or verbal information given to clients was satisfactory
  • Facilities: accessibility, signage, parking, cleanliness, privacy
  • Safety and Security: the extent to which provisions are made to ensure a client’s personal safety and the security of his/her belongings
  • Other complaints not covered by the above examples

Procedures:

If a client has a concern, and expresses it to a direct supervisor or a staff person, and the concern is clarified with the client to their satisfaction, it is not treated as a complaint. The resolution of a concern is achieved through open communication. Clients may express complaints to Vitanova through either an informal or formal complaint process. An informal resolution of the complaint is encouraged whenever possible before formal procedures are initiated.

For details about informal and formal complaint processed, contact the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director.

Client Testimonials

J.S.’s Story

November 21, 2010

TO FRANCA:

Vitanova. New Life. Two simple words with such a vast significance. At some point in each of our lives the mere idea of a New Life was incomprehensible. To us and the many around us it seemed as if our shovels had dug deeper than our ladders allowed and that the rock bottom on which we sat was the only thing that separated us into the black abyss of death.
And yet somehow, some way, each of us ended up walking through those now familiar doors. Some of us were skeptical, some were even disdainful but there was a moment for each of us, when we sat down in a welcoming office, in front of a big oak desk and looked up to see the most calm, kind and comforting eyes looking right back. It was in that very moment that incomprehensible became the believable. And in that very moment that the seeds of our new lives sprouted into existence. And this is why Franca Carella is mother to us all. Franca, through you, we have learned what it means to be calm in the midst of chaos, to have faith when all others doubt, and to love when a reasonable person would be filled with fear. No you are not reasonable and personally, I often think you’re crazy and I love you, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that do. From the bottom of each of our hearts, thank you, Franca, for everything.

J.S. (client)

PM’s Story

October 16, 2011

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

My name is P.M. I am 41 years old, born in Sarnia, Ontario. My background is Greek and I grew up with Greek traditions. I grew up in an abusive home with a lot of yelling and fighting between my parents. I started to use drugs at a young age and fell in love with the feeling it left me. I didn’t have to deal with my problems in life or face my parent’s divorce. Between the ages of 14-40 years old my life was a blur. The only thing on my mind was to get high. 
Yes there was period that I didn’t use but that didn’t last long. When I wasn’t high I didn’t know how to live my life. I was afraid to face the world and what it brought me. At one point in my life, at age 25, I got married and had children as I thought that would solve my drug problem but it didn’t. I neglected to be a husband and father to my family. I started to treat my wife and children the way my parents brought me up. My marriage didn’t last so that at age 30 old my addiction to drugs and alcohol took full control of my life. I started to break the law to get my fix of drugs. Of course, sooner or later I would be thrown in jail. Between the ages of 30-40 years old I was in and out of jail. I think in the last 10 years I was out on the streets no longer than 6 months. I felt suicidal and very depressed for how my life had turned out. At this point I had caused so much pain to myself and all my family, including my parents, my brother, and my sister, not to say my children that I haven’t seen in over 10 years. How can I cause so much destruction to those I love. This time sitting in jail my lawyer said to me…P., it’s time to get some help! I told him many times I could do it on my own but I failed. So I considered his advice and here I am at Vitanova which he recommended. The only place the court allowed me to go to was Vitanova. This place gave me a new life. I can’t explain the freedom I have after being here 5 months I have faced my fears and the pain that I caused others and what my parents did to me. Vitanova helped me to let go of any resentments I have and to accept the things I cannot change and gave me the courage to change the things I can. In 41 years I’ve never been free like I am today; The love this home gave me I’ve hadn’t felt in a long time. The best thing is I’ll always be a part of this home called Vitanova because of what it gave me I have to give back for the rest of my life. Vitanova saved me from death or the rest of my life in jail. I’m still paving my road and I’m still working on getting my children back in my life. I know even my worst day today is better than any other day I’ve ever had. My family is so proud of me and I’m proud of my accomplishments today. May God always bless Vitanova, the sweetest lady and Executive Director Franca Carella, all the counselors and staff and I pray Vitanova can continue to touch more lives that are suffering out there due to addictions.

Sincerely,
PM