Researchers say an innovative Toronto-based program could be an answer for patients who have severe addictions and are frequent users of the health care system.
The program, developed by St. Michael’s Hospital, improves health and social outcomes by providing one-on-one intensive case management from a harm reduction approach.
The Toronto Community Addiction Team works with clients to provide services such as individual therapy, finding a physician, securing housing, managing budgets and care plans that are based on clients’ strengths and choices.
“Developing interventions to engage these frequent users in community-based care and alleviate pressures from costly hospital-based services — which are not designed to meet their needs — is a system priority,” said Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos.
“[Using a team] is a great example of a client-centered approach that works to do exactly this. It shows promise in reducing re-admission rates which can ultimately save money for the health care system.”
The program provides city-wide mobile intensive case management for people with frequent re-admissions to a withdrawal management system — 10 or more in a year — and and/or hospital emergency departments — 20 or more in a year.
“Many of these patients cycle between jail, the shelter system, withdrawal management and hospitals,” Stergiopoulos said. “They can’t access services, and the services are not helpful because many of them only accept patients who are at a different place in the recovery process. The TCAT works on strength-based principles and supports people from a harm reduction orientation.
“The program is uniquely focused on empowering the client by promoting respect and dignity so they can make their own choices.”
The program is described online in the journal Substance Use and Misuse.
Researchers discovered a statistically significant decrease in service use, alcohol and drug use. Clients also described increased access to primary and psychiatric care and increased collaboration with various stakeholders within the wider system of care.
According to Stergiopoulos, the goal is to divert care for these patients from a place like the emergency department to the community because it can improve outcomes for both the patients and the system.
“This model worked well in the city of Toronto, and may be considered in other large urban centers that face similar challenges with frequent service users who have alcohol and drug related problems, often complicated by homelessness and lack of support and resources,” she said.
Source: St. Michaels Hospital