Community Wellness: Caring for Edmonton's Most Vulnerable

Last week’s update on the blog featured some information about a report that we’d received on Community Wellness Approaches, or in more specific terms, improving our capacity as a City to deal with vulnerable people in crisis.

According to the findings of the Homeless Commission, there are around 300 to 600 heavy, regular users of emergency and health services in Edmonton, and most of these individuals are homeless or are struggling with significant addictions or mental health problems.

The proposal is to create a place that offers ‘homecare’ for the homeless, including mental health care, programming, support workers, and more, so that an individual in crisis can be viewed with a more holistic lens, rather than breaking that person down into their component parts for a variety of agencies to take a piece of.

The report also offered some suggestions for bolstering our ability to help individuals before a crisis begins, through techniques like mobile outreach and increased daytime programming. The report recommended more on-site emergency health workers to deal with emergencies and avoid straining the resources of police and health personnel at other facilities.

I think the most important component of the report was the suggestion of increased transitional services to help support the client post-crisis. By ensuring that they are able to make their medical appointments, continue seeing support workers, and are not getting buried in piles of paperwork and instructions from different agencies, I think we will have a better shot at really helping individuals to get healthy.

The program will be run by a collection of social agencies like Boyle Street Community Services, Hope Mission, and many others, along with EPS, the Royal Alex hospital, and the province through Alberta Health Services. It will cost $4.2 million per year to operate, and it is looking like they will use the old Edmonton Remand Centre to house the multi-service hub that will be so critical to providing these supports.

When we consider the health care and policing cost reductions that this program and others like it could help to reduce, it seems like a no-brainer, and that’s without considering the real human implications of what this program may deliver to some of Edmonton’s most vulnerable citizens.

This report is one of the best I’ve seen during my time on Council, both in respect to its content and its thoroughness. If you’ve got a few minutes and are interested in long term solutions to one of our city’s most pressing issues, I’d recommend reading it here.