Victoria AIDS Resource & Community Service Society (VARCS) is permanently closing its doors March 31, thanks to a new harm reduction model by the region’s health authority.
Since 1991, VARCS has provided respite and community support services to people living with HIV/AIDS through contract funding from Island Health. Last year, VARCS received $165,000 for its work, which includes a region-wide needle exchange program.
Island Health informed VARCS last October that it failed to quality for funding under the health organization’s new comprehensive Hard to Reach service model, which focuses funding on health and mobile harm reduction services and intensive case management outreach teams.
But the non-profit only went public with the news this week.
“The closing of our doors means that people living in the South Island area will have diminished social supports, which could have serious health consequences,” said TJ Furlani, VARCS chair.
Last summer, Island Health asked VARCS and other agencies to present proposals that incorporated its Hard to Reach model.
“That model was predicated on over a year’s worth of work with VicPD and City of Victoria on redesigning harm reduction support in the core Victoria area, and focusing on where there was a gap in service,” said Suzanne Germain, Island Health spokesperson.
AIDS Vancouver Island was the successful proponent of that process, and will now receive $435,000 for harm reduction services, and $278,000 for an integrated case management team annually.
“There has been no budget reduction,” Germain said. “We’ve actually put an additional $500,000 into this service model across (our jurisdiction).”