The city has sharpened the business case to the province and the feds, using Alberta Health Services health care cost figures, to drive home the need for supportive housing for those with addiction problems and mental illness.
The numbers became clearer once Ambrose Place opened in the inner city, a facility that assists “hard-to-house” individuals.
“The statistics show very clearly that folks who have these kinds of supports, not only have better lives and better dignity, but they also interact far less with the acute medical system,” Mayor Don Iveson told reporters. “So there is a huge savings and that’s why Alberta Health Services supports the program here.”
Some fresh information related to Ambrose from AHS shows that overall inpatient days have decreased by 81 per cent since 2014.
An evaluation report also found that the number of overall inpatient acute days has dropped by 74 per cent and emergency room visits dropped by 45 per cent.
To Mayor Iveson, that’s the potential for big savings.
“Usually an emergency room visit is in the thousands of dollars. Every one of those you avoid is thousands of dollars of savings. And, on the other hand, lower wait times. And staying in the wards is I understand about $1,600 a day. Pretty quickly you can start to actually build the unit that provides the supportive housing with what you’re saving on the health care side.”
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Those numbers have helped justify the city’s request to the province and the feds for them to share on $210 million, $21 million a year for ten years.
“We think that will develop the thousand or so units that are needed,” Iveson said. “I am optimistic that with a national housing strategy coming soon, the federal budget coming soon, we will see some new investment. That will likely flow through the province so really it’ll fall to the province to be quite clear in their budget and in their Alberta housing strategy that they’re going to prioritize this investment.”
What Iveson envisions is this type of housing spread throughout the city, where transit is handy. That could mean stops along the Valley Line LRT to Mill Woods, or eventually the west end.
“Any place where you would find services and employment and mobility,” Iveson said. “One of the things we learned from the Terwillegar discussion a few years ago is that we needed to build the units but that might not have been an ideal place. It doesn’t follow then that everything should be in the inner city either.”
Other findings from the AHS report:
- 58 per cent decrease in number of inpatient admissions
- 81 per cent decrease in the number of overall inpatient days
- 74 per cent decrease in number of overall inpatient acute days
- 31 per cent decrease in the number of overall EMS events
- 68 per cent decrease in the number of noted addiction and mental-health related EMS events
Mayor Iveson said he’s had several discussions with the appropriate ministers involved, and hopes to hear good news when the province tables its budget March 16.