North East LHIN tackles housing strategy

Louise Paquette, CEO, North East LHIN.

Louise Paquette, CEO, North East LHIN.

Housing recognized as determinant of health

A 23-member expert Housing Panel convened by the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) is scheduled to submit a report detailing housing needs for the frail elderly, homeless and at-risk populations, as well as the region’s vulnerable population groups, including people with mental illness and addiction issues this fall.

The expert panel’s work will assist the LHIN in developing an Innovative Housing and Health Strategy.

Housing as a determinant of health is identified as a priority in the LHIN’s Integrated Service Plan for 2016-2019, and was the subject of a Housing Forum organized by the LHIN last fall.

“We were pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the turnout at the forum and the recognition of the importance of housing,” said Louise Paquette, CEO of the North East LHIN.

The expert panel has met monthly and a second forum was held in June.

The panel’s report to the LHIN is expected to shed light on current capacity and demand for long-term care, supportive housing and congregant living by sub-region within the northeast.

“We need to know if the right people are being admitted to long-term care, if they’re being properly assessed and if they could live in their own home with added supports,” said Paquette.

“The solutions are often in the community, but the challenges show up in hospital as alternate level of care (ALC) patients, so we need to work collaboratively to make sure people are receiving the care they need in hospital, but also in their homes.”

On the whole, said Paquette, “we’re doing much, much better” on keeping ALC numbers down, “but there are still areas where we have some challenges. Sudbury is one of the areas that we still need to work on, and where we’re looking at additional capacity because people should not be living in hospital.”

According to the LHIN, the average daily cost to keep someone in hospital is $486, compared to $72 per day to care for a person in supportive housing.

There will still be a need for long-term care, or nursing homes, but innovative housing options and best practices from other jurisdictions are also on the LHIN’s radar.

“Some countries don’t believe in long-term care homes, and are moving more to congregant living,” said Paquette. “We need to bring these success stories to northeastern Ontario.”

One example is Percy Place in North Bay, home to 11 residents with mental health challenges – some of whom lived in hospital for decades. People living at Percy Place have access to 24/7 care with a personal support worker and a nurse on staff along with peer support workers and support from hospital staff as required.

Another innovative housing option cited by Paquette is Sudbury’s Finlandia House, which offers several styles of accommodation, including supportive housing “with as much care as you need and as much independence as you want.”

Some funding for additional supportive housing in the northeast is expected to come from a $100 million commitment from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Announced in March, the money is earmarked to cover operating expenses and support services for 4,000 families and individuals over the next three years, and to support the construction of 1,500 new supportive housing units across the province.

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