managed alcohol project

Today at the Mission notes that there’s a controversial new program at an Ottawa homeless shelter called the Managed Alcohol Project, in which chronic alcoholics are given an assigned bed, and from 7AM to 11PM, they are allowed to have one drink of beer or wine per hour. The program was the focus of a study by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, which concluded:

Seventeen adults with an average age of 51 years and a mean duration of alcoholism of 35 years were enrolled in MAP for an average of 16 months. Their monthly mean group total of ED [Emergency Department] visits decreased from 13.5 to 8; police encounters, from 18.1 to 8.8… All program participants reported less alcohol consumption during MAP, and subjects and staff alike reported improved hygiene, compliance with medical care and health.

The numbers are intriguing, though the sample set so far is rather small. Today at the Mission had this to say about the program, and I’m inclined to agree:

The program participants have thus reduced their intake of alcohol (and, presumably, stopped drinking mouthwash and aftershave) take better care of themselves and have less hospital visits and police encounters. Sounds entirely reasonable to me. For some of the clients this could become a holding pattern but it does have possibilities for greater effects in the clients’ lives. The key, as I see it, is the ‘permanent bed’ assigned to the MAP participants. This means a measure of safety and stablity in the clients lives and the shelter staff could begin developing relationships with them. As Don Worrell points out in the comments to the post below, the success stories would be few and far between - but ultimately worth it.