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Health-care advocate for marginalized communities receives Order of Nova Scotia

Patti Melanson was among six who received the highest honour in Nova Scotia Tuesday

Smiling, with tears in her eyes, Patti Melanson looked at her two daughters from her front row seat in the Red Chamber of Province House. From the back row, her daughters waved reassuringly. A few moments later, Melanson was awarded the highest honour of the Province of Nova Scotia.

“I feel really lucky,” Melanson said after receiving her Order of Nova Scotia medal on Tuesday.

“I feel like I’ve had a beautiful job. People are interesting. I love the characters that I get to meet every day. So, my job is never dull, really. And I quite like that.”

The Order of Nova Scotia recognizes Nova Scotians for outstanding achievements or contributions. This year, recipients were chosen from among 125 nominees.

Melanson has been a registered nurse in Nova Scotia for over 25 years. She is also the founder of Mobile Outreach Street Health. Since 2009, the MOSH team and mobile treatment centre have provided accessible health care to people who are homeless or in shelters.

Despite her contributions to health care in Nova Scotia, Melanson was surprised to hear she was receiving the award.

“I don’t think what I do is extraordinary,” Melanson said.

Her daughter, Mackenzie Ross, disagreed.

“I feel like my mom’s view of herself is so much different than what anybody views her at,” said Ross. “It was so validating to watch her get an award for everything that she does.”

For Ross, helping people is part of who her mother is.

“I think that probably is the biggest thing we took from her, just be a human with people and treat them as such,” she said.

Premier Stephen McNeil congratulates Melanson at the ceremony.   Nebal Snan

Ross said her proudest moment was when her mother started MOSH, after eight years of hard work.

“I remember when she drove the van home, and she parked it in front of our house the first day that she got it back from the shop,” said Ross. “She was honking … that was probably the best moment.”

Melanson was inspired to create MOSH while working at Phoenix Youth programs. At Phoenix, she provided care to youth, including helping them access the health-care services they needed.

“We have people living in the margins of our society and we need as much care and support placed around them as possible,” she said.

Melanson is pleased that MOSH is serving a purpose. But, she said, the health-care system in Nova Scotia still has issues, particularly not being able to address the needs of families who are struggling and living in poverty.

“In Nova Scotia, sometimes we are consumed with how much things cost to do the things that need to be done within health care,” she said.

Order of Nova Scotia recipients pose with Premier Stephen McNeil and Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc. From left to right: Sherry Jackson-Smith (on behalf of Wade Smith), Patti Melanson, Ellie Black, LeBlanc, McNeil, Janet Kitz and John Bragg.   Nebal Snan

Melanson said helping vulnerable communities starts with recognizing them. She said Nova Scotians need to lobby politicians on their behalf.

Melanson has one piece of advice for future nurses and health practitioners.

“Be brave in choosing careers. Don’t only work in traditional health-care settings,” she said. “Open your eyes and see what else is out there.”

Along with Melanson, Ellie Black, John Bragg, Clotilda Douglas-Yakimchuk, Janet Kitz and Wade Smith (posthumous) received the Order of Nova Scotia.

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