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Complex care announced for some of Nanaimo’s most hard-to-house individuals

Additional mental-health and substance-use care to be offered to those at risk of homelessness
B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson announces new complex care services coming to Nanaimo. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

New complex-care services will help keep a roof over the heads of 30 of Nanaimo’s most hard-to-house individuals.

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announced Thursday, Aug. 25, that Nanaimo will receive funding for 30 complex-care spaces by 2025, including 10 spaces this year.

The ‘spaces’ aren’t physical beds, but rather a commitment to provide the necessary health and social services to keep people housed in existing supportive units.

“We know there are people for whom supportive housing was not a high-enough level of care,” Malcolmson said. “This is especially true for people with concurrent mental health and substance-use challenges.”

She said the services are tailored to the needs of the communities and people receiving complex care might get help with addictions treatment, overdose prevention, psychiatric services, primary health care, social service navigation, occupational therapy and culturally sensitive support.

“This innovative approach is designed to break the cycle of homelessness and eviction and give people a place where they can live with dignity, with the care that they need, and they can stabilize their lives,” the minister said.

Malcolmson said complex care helps one client at a time and there is a “central commitment” that supports will be there for people in the system no matter how they progress up and down the housing continuum.

“And we hope that with extra care, they’ll be able to stabilize and won’t all of their lives need this higher level of care,” she said.

Island Health will be operating complex care in Nanaimo in partnership with B.C. Housing and local service providers. Leah Hollins, Island Health’s board chairperson, said a collaborative effort will be required, but the service has the potential to make a difference in many lives.

“We recognize the incredibly challenging nature of addressing complex mental health and substance-use needs,” she said. “This is a challenge being faced in all of our communities and it is impacting so many individuals and families.”

READ ALSO: City asking province for complex care housing in Nanaimo

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog applauded the announcement, thanked those who advocated for the service and also complimented and thanked those who work in health and social services and provide the needed care.

Malcolmson said complex care is a “ground-breaking” approach, as the service has only recently been introduced in a handful of B.C. cities. She said it is an “evolving” project and suggested that following initial evaluation and monitoring, the complex care system could receive not only operational spending, but capital spending, as well.

According to a B.C. government news release, the province is spending $164 million over three years to provide complex care to as many as 500 people.

RELATED: Surrey, Abbotsford, Vancouver get first complex care centres for people experiencing homelessness

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