BC to open 20 complex-care housing sites with mental health and addictions services

Feb 23 2022, 1:47 am

Over the next three fiscal years, the provincial government will gradually expand its complex-care housing model of pairing housing with an enhanced level of services in mental health and addictions.

The 2022 BC budget released today calls for opening at least 20 additional locations across the province, creating a combined total capacity for 500 individuals in complex-care housing by early 2025.

Unlike supportive housing, complex-care housing provides residents with treatment and 24/7 specialized care, such as support from nurses, social workers, and other health professionals.

Specific clinical services and other supports include physical, mental health, and substance use care, and psychosocial rehabilitation, as well as proper food nutrition, social and community supports, and personal care and living supports.

The expansion of this new integrated housing model is expected to cost $164 million over the next three fiscal years, with about $55 million budgeted for each year. This provides the program with the necessary time to incrementally scale with the required experienced service professionals.

The provincial government launched the program in January 2022, and designated its first four locations — the existing Jim Green Residence at 415 Alexander Street in the Downtown Eastside, where there will be 44 complex-care spaces, as well as locations at existing supportive housing buildings in East Vancouver, Surrey, and Abbotsford. All four initial locations provide a combined capacity of 103 spaces.

It should be emphasized complex-care housing requires the voluntary participation of its residents — nobody will be forced into complex-care housing.

“It is a ground-breaking approach to address the needs of people who often have overlapping mental-health challenges, substance-use issues, trauma and acquired brain injuries, and who often end up facing the most significant housing barriers. This program will provide an enhanced level of integrated health and social supports to serve people where they live,” reads the budget.

“Services will be health-focused and will seek to meet the individual needs of participants, ranging from intensive supportive housing, interim housing for those transitioning out of hospitals or correctional facilities, and high-intensity housing for those with the most complex needs.”

The complex-care housing program is one of four components of the provincial government’s three-year overall strategy through BC Housing of directly tackling homelessness. The combined cost of all four components is $633 million, including $384 million in 2022/23, $119 million in 2023/24, and $130 million in 2024/25.

As one of the components, the budget set asides $35 million over three years to expand programs that support youth experiencing homelessness, specifically providing youth who have interacted with the government care system with support beyond their 19th birthday. Nearly 50% of former youth in government care experience homelessness at some point in their lives. As well, this funding supports new “Youth Transitions navigators” who will assist up to 8,830 youth up to their 27th birthday.

Another $170 million over three years will go to the component of enhanced and expanded general programs to address homelessness, with the provincial government partnering with the federal government to offer rent supplements of up to $600 per month to help individuals access market rental housing. It is anticipated this will assist over 3,000 people by early 2025. Additionally, about $4 million will go towards supporting individuals living in homeless encampments.

The fourth component is the permanent housing initiative that began during the pandemic. It will carry a continued cost of $264 million over three years, with the vast majority of this sum to be spent in the 2022/2023 fiscal year on previously committed the projects. This includes $63 million in capital funding and $50 million in operating funding to transition individuals in temporary arrangements to permanent housing, as well as $150 million in pandemic recovery contingencies to extend the operational duration of temporary spaces for those waiting for permanent housing.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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