News of the success rate of the regional Victoria Integrated Community Outreach Team raised our eyebrows recently.
The team, comprised of nurses, outreach and social workers, probation and police officers and a provincial social services staffer, works with an average client load of 65 people facing issues ranging from addictions to unstable mental health to homelessness.
That number may seem relatively small compared to the region’s homeless numbers, which reach well into the hundreds in any given month. But the effect of VICOT’s work with its clients has been unmistakable.
In the first year of being supported by the team, clients’ average stay in acute care hospital beds went from 121 days per year to 35. For the second year, that number dropped to 11. Overall the cost savings to the medical system are about $6 million a year.
That’s no small change. And that number doesn’t include the savings in police resources or insurance claims related to drug-related theft.
While realizing such cost savings lets us breathe easier as taxpayers, programs such as this one can also allow us to feel somewhat safer in our communities.
As such, the people who work with street-entrenched individuals must be applauded for their efforts to guide those clients into a healthier lifestyle.
But let’s not forget to give a pat on the back to those people who are doing the heavy lifting personally.
In accepting help from VICOT workers and others, clients are pulling themselves out of the cycle of addiction and addressing mental health issues, both of which, if left unchecked, can lead to crisis situations for themselves and others in our communities.
Remembering to eat a healthy diet, for example, may not seem like such a big deal on its own for most of us. But when buying food at all is sacrificed for buying drugs, it’s easy to see how one’s health can decline quickly.
The VICOT results are evidence that a team approach is a successful model for helping give a hand up to the most vulnerable in our communities.