Justice Department pilot project proves worth the investment, says minister

The Integrated case management pilot project in the N.W.T. has shown a positive return on investment, the Department of Justice says.

A pilot project started more than four years ago has improved lives, according to an assessment

N.W.T. Justice Minister Caroline Wawzonek says she continues to support the integrated case management program. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

A pilot project hosted by the N.W.T. Department of Justice for more than four years has shown a positive return on investment, according to an independent assessment cited by the department.

In a news release Wednesday, the department said that every $1 invested in its integrated case management project has returned $4.50 worth of "social good." The report itself was not immediately made available.

Integrated case management involves pairing people facing complex challenges, such as alcohol dependence, substance abuse, unemployment, and mental health issues with workers — Pathfinders — who help them navigate social and economic aids and support.

The principle behind the program is that it's not enough for social services to be available, they must also be accessible to the people who need them.

"This program is integral in supporting the individuals and families in our community struggling the most to access the supports they need," said Justice Minister Caroline Wawzonek in the news release. 

"It is not enough that government services are available; they must be accessible and delivered in a timely and flexible manner that recognizes that not everyone starts from the same point, and ensures all members of the community are treated with dignity and respect."

In 2017, Yellowknife RCMP noted a significant drop in calls for service regarding some early participants in the program.

Of the 248 people in the program, most self-identify as Indigenous. A little more than half of participants are women (54 per cent), the median age for participants is 44, and 55 per cent were either born and raised in Yellowknife, or have lived in the city for more than five years.

The key findings of the assessment, beyond value for money, include that: program participants feel that integrated case management support has brought positive change in their lives, and that most service providers found that the program took pressure off their own workloads.

Continued funding for the program is included in the 2020-2021 budget.

"The outcomes from this study reinforce that much of the program's success lies in the way that service is provided and how people are treated rather than solely on the availability of Pathfinders," the news release states.

"Evidence from this study and many others show that equity, flexibility and person-centred service make up the foundation to effectively support people living with complex social challenges."