Background: In Ontario, Canada, social workers are employed in a number of primary healthcare (PHC) settings such as Community Health Centres (CHCs) and Family Health Teams (FHTs). However, many aspects of social work practice within PHC settings are unknown.
Objectives: The objectives of our study are to determine the amount of social work services provided in CHCs and FHTs, identify the types of services that social workers provide in CHCs and FHTs and ascertain the methods social workers use to deliver services in CHCs and FHTs.
Method: An analysis of a cross-sectional data set obtained from a survey conducted in June 2016 in Ontario was performed.
Results: The majority of practices (84.2%) had a social worker, although several practices also hosted other types of mental health workers. In virtually all practices with social workers, they (and individuals designated as mental healthcare providers) were also involved in practice level efforts to support mental healthcare delivery. In several practices, the care they delivered extended beyond that related directly to mental healthcare, ranging from preventive care and health promotion (64.5%) to palliative care (16.8%). In several practices, these workers also offered group appointments related to healthy behaviour (43.6%) and self-management (~33%). Interestingly, the role of social workers in practices where they were the sole designated mental healthcare worker was not meaningfully different from practices where other mental health professionals work.
Conclusions: In PHC, social workers deliver or support the delivery of mental healthcare, but their role extends beyond that domain to encompass a broader set of services that contribute to the individual's health and wellbeing.