James Meloche says demand increasing for Community Care programs
It’s annual budget-planning season again. Across Durham, health and social service agencies are developing budgets, uncertain of the lasting impact of COVID-19 on programs, revenues and expenses. The province is also planning for its next budget with similar unknowns.
Recently, local agencies had the opportunity to raise their priorities with Durham’s MPPs.
COVID has accentuated what we already knew. We need more public investment in mental health support, social services for children and seniors and technology, and we need to pay more attention to underlying inequities.
Thankfully, one area that is getting long overdue public investment is long-term care. The loss of life and well-being experienced by those living in long-term care is our collective failure and now our responsibility.
But while investment in providing safe long-term care must be a priority, it is equally critical that government invest in services that keep people living well in their own homes, where they want to be.
The evidence is clear. According to a recent survey by the Ontario Community Supports Association, 95 per cent of seniors believe that living at home with home care support is the safest environment for them.
Living at home with support not only keeps people well, it’s also good for our tax dollar. It takes $201 a day to support a person living in long-term care, $703 per day in hospital and only $103 per day at home. Investments in home care not only save money but also save lives and enhances older adults’ well-being and independence.
At Community Care Durham, we have seen a steady uptick in demand for our COPE Mental Health program, Assisted Living and Supportive Housing, Meals on Wheels and our new Community Food Box. In 2020, we delivered 143,938 meals, a 44 per cent increase from the previous year.
One-time public funds have helped us keep up with this demand, but we are at a breaking point without predictable funding to keep up with growth and inflation. Our base budget hasn’t been increased in over a decade. We have been limited in keeping pace with investments in technology and wage parity that attracts essential workers to our sector.
As a non-profit steward of public resources, we have and will continue to serve our mission. During the pandemic, we are redirecting our limited resources to ensure clients, staff, and volunteers’ safety through stringent protocols and use of personal protective equipment. The result speaks for itself: Less than 0.25 per cent of our over 400 homebound clients contracted COVID. We recently asked our clients how we were doing to maintain their independence and life goals. Ninety-six per cent of them said we were doing a good to great job.
Durham’s health and social service agencies have been working together to achieve common goals both before and during the pandemic. We know we can collectively do better in the future. But it will require public investment.
If you are talking to your local politician, please remind them that investing in home first is not only good for taxpayers but also for our citizens and community.
The Metroland Media Group first published this column on March 3, 2021.