THUNDER BAY – A new study commissioned by The District of Thunder Bay Social Services Administration Board (TBDSSAB) has found the need for increased investment in addictions services in the District has never been greater. These findings come at a time when the Ministry of Community and Social Services is planning on cutting funding for the Ontario Works Addiction Services Initiative (ASI) by up to 39% by 2011.
“The needs of our citizens struggling to overcome addictions are becoming increasingly complex”, noted Councillor Iain Angus, TBDSSAB Chair. “Whether you talk to families in recovery, treatment professionals, or addictions researchers, there is a definite consensus that more – not less – of the services provided by the ASI program are badly needed in our communities.”
Drawing on interviews with community stakeholders and program participants, published research and administrative data, the study found the ASI program to be highly effective at brokering and supporting participants through the addictions treatment spectrum.
“The program has succeeded in not only connecting people to services, but in fostering the necessary foundations for improved employability, such as meeting basic needs, forming support networks, and linking with mental health treatment” said Angus. “These findings echo the recent consultations done under the Thunder Bay Drug Strategy highlighting the increasing need for comprehensive addictions, mental health, and aftercare services. A reduction in the ASI program would create gaps that could not be bridged effectively with existing services.”
The study also estimates substance abuse is costing the District of Thunder Bay over $151 million a year, or over $1015 per person. “The current investment in the ASI program of $1.125 million provides a $7.6 million contribution to our communities” noted Councillor Angus. “A 675% return on investment is outstanding value for the taxpayer, especially considering the human and social benefits of the program which cannot be measured in dollars and cents.”
The study estimates the proposed cuts will save the province $358,000 yet increase the social costs of addiction in the District of Thunder Bay by $3.42 million. “Where’s the value in that?” asked Angus.
Since 2001 the ASI program has provided Ontario Works participants with intensive case management, outreach, and employment supports to remove barriers to independence created by addictions. “There is no question that an increased investment in the ASI program is urgently needed in the District of Thunder Bay.
TBDSSAB is calling on the provincial government to, at the very least, sustain funding for this program at its current levels,” said Councillor Angus. “By focusing on not only the individual’s substance use but their support networks, basic needs, and mental health, the ASI program has been remarkably effective at helping some of our most vulnerable citizens regain control of their lives while saving our communities millions.”