A Holistic Approach to Care: Addressing Housing and Mental Health

September 13, 2019

Trent partners with City of Kawartha Lakes on a better approach to providing service to people at risk

For people dealing with homelessness and mental health issues, you often cannot solve one problem without looking at the other. Complex issues like these require thoughtful solutions, and recently a Trent professor teamed up with an Ontario municipality to deliver just that.

Dr. Kristy Buccieri, associate professor of Sociology, worked with the City of Kawartha Lakes on Intensive Case Management (ICM) – an integrated approach to supporting clients accessing social services support with complex needs in terms of housing and mental health.

The evaluation and corresponding report found that this more integrated approach created a better quality of life for clients, more sustainable service delivery, and increased satisfaction in housing.

Finding a place called home

The ICM program was delivered through A Place Called Home, an organization, supported by the municipality’s Human Services department, which provides shelter and support to individuals experiencing homelessness in Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton. The ICM program focuses on supporting clients in finding and maintaining housing – a major challenge for those struggling with addiction and mental health. The study explored how two Kawartha Lakes Intensive Case Managers from the Four Counties Addiction Services Team supported 45 clients.

In the report, completed by Professor Kristy Buccieri, it was found that the Intensive Case Management program had a key role in the reduction of homelessness in Kawartha Lakes over the past three years. For ICM clients, homelessness was reduced by 36%, whereas homelessness was reduced by 23% for general clients of A Place Called Home.

In response to these figures, Prof. Buccieri stated, “Homelessness is an issue in communities across the country. Canada’s national homelessness strategy aims to reduce chronic homelessness 50% by 2028. Through the implementation of this ICM program, the City of Kawartha Lakes has aligned itself well with this national priority and should be commended for the significant progress they have made over the past three years.”

Increased well-being, less pain, reduced hospital costs

Those accessing supports through the ICM program were also found to be more satisfied with their housing situation, including the quality of the housing supplied and the length of their stay. Through the ICM process, clients’ mental health improved, and the prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder was reduced. Clients felt that they fit in better with their community and that they experienced better connections with their healthcare providers. This resulted in increased well-being, less pain and the ability to take medication with less difficulty. The program also resulted in clients reducing more than $809,000 in hospital costs.

“The findings of this report were very positive,” stated Hope Lee, manager of Human Services (Housing) for the City. “We’re excited to see how the Intensive Case Management program is helping better our clients’ quality of life.”