Q&A with the MLA’s: What progress has been made on the plan to end homelessness in our province?

How do I apply for the insulin pump therapy program? What are the eligibility criteria?

Effective June 1, 2013, the Government of Alberta implemented its commitment to fund insulin pumps and supplies to provide eligible Albertans with Type 1 diabetes with another tool to manage their condition. Alberta’s IPT program, which covers the full cost of insulin pumps and basic IPT supplies and does not have any age restrictions, is among the most generous in Canada.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) has approved 11 insulin pump clinics for the delivery of the program. To qualify for funding, Albertans must meet the program’s eligibility and clinical criteria. The program’s eligibility criteria include that patients must be Alberta residents who are eligible for coverage under the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan, and they must be under the care of a physician or nurse practitioner for Type 1 diabetes. Detailed program eligibility criteria are available at www.health.alberta.ca/documents/Insulin-Pump-Therapy-Program-Eligibility.pdf.

The program’s clinical criteria, which were established by AHS in consultation with health professionals with diabetes expertise include, but are not limited to, conducting regular blood glucose testing, understanding carbohydrate counting and being able to accommodate a pump with other lifestyle considerations. Patients will be assessed against these criteria by a team of diabetes health professionals at an insulin pump clinic, to ensure that only patients who are clinically suited for the use of insulin pumps can enrol in the IPT program. Medical experts have advised that, for medical and lifestyle reasons, not all diabetics will benefit from the use of IPT. Patient safety is the first priority when granting access to IPT.

Albertans interested in being considered for the IPT program may register for a pre-pump information session by contacting one of the insulin pump clinics, which are listed at www.albertahealthservices.ca/ps-1061556-insulinpump-contact.pdf or contact HEALTHLink Alberta at 1-866-408-5465.  Pre-pump information sessions can also be completed online at www.albertahealthservices.ca/8548.asp.

Once enrolled in the IPT program, an Albertan can obtain an insulin pump from one of four approved insulin pump manufacturers; the manufacturer will bill the program directly. IPT supplies must also be obtained on a direct bill basis from either an Alberta pharmacy or one of the approved pump manufacturers.

The IPT program does not reimburse patients for insulin pumps and supplies purchased prior to June 1, 2013. However, Albertans with Type 1 diabetes who were already using IPT as of June 1, 2013, can apply for funding of IPT supplies for up to five years by having their physician or nurse practitioner complete and submit an IPT Program Supply Authorization Request form to Alberta Blue Cross on their behalf.  The form is available at www.health.alberta.ca/documents/Insulin-Pump-Supply-Form.pdf.  In order to be eligible for a new pump and ongoing supplies after the initial five years, patients will need to obtain a referral from a physician or nurse practitioner to the IPT program and have an assessment completed at an insulin pump clinic by the time their existing pump is five years old.

Since July 1, 2012, government-sponsored supplementary health benefit plans, which include Non-Group Coverage, Coverage for Seniors and Palliative Drug Coverage, have provided funding of up to $600 for eligible diabetic supplies for enrolled individuals with insulin-treated diabetes, regardless of whether they are Type 1 or Type 2 diabetics.

In addition, the Alberta Monitoring for Health Program, administered by the Canadian Diabetes Association, provides some coverage of eligible diabetes management supplies to eligible low-income Albertans with diabetes, including those who manage their diabetes by insulin, oral medications, or diet and exercise.  More information on the Alberta Monitoring for Health Program is available by calling 1‑800-267-7532 or at www.diabetes.ca/get-involved/programs-entry/alberta-nwt-alberta-monitoring-for-health-amfh-program.

Mike Allen is the MLA for Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. He can be reached at 780-790-6014 or email fortmcmurray.woodbuffalo@assembly.ab.ca.

I understand that the province of Alberta has received national recognition for progress in ending homelessness. Can you tell me more about this recognition and the progress of the plan to end homelessness in our province?

When communities and government work together, the successes we can achieve are outstanding. A fine example of this is the progress that we have made to end homelessness in communities across Alberta. These successes were highlighted in a nationwide report that was recently released.

The report, The State of Homelessness in Canada, 2013, was prepared by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH). It was released on June 19. The CAEH is an independent, national housing and homelessness advocacy group. They aim to promote ending homelessness in all communities across Canada.

In this report, they identify Alberta as a national leader in our approach to ending homelessness through A Plan for Alberta: Ending Homelessness in 10 Years. The report acknowledges communities like Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Wood Buffalo for being able to significantly reduce the homeless population.

As we enter year five of our 10-Year Plan, we should be proud of our accomplishments. Since the Plan was introduced in 2009, more than 6,600 homeless Albertans have been provided housing and supports. Additionally, more than 1,600 individuals have graduated from Housing First programming and have reclaimed lives of hope, dignity and independence. In fact, 80 per cent of the people housed have retained their housing.

Those are statistics that should be celebrated, but we still have a lot of work to do if we are to completely eliminate homelessness in this province. Ending homelessness in Alberta is a complex task that requires government and community collaboration to achieve successful outcomes for those in need — including families with children, seniors, Aboriginal people, immigrants and people with disabilities.

The Government of Alberta is committed to seeing this collaboration and plan through to completion. This government continues to support the 10-year plan by funding shelters, outreach and support services, and through the newly created Alberta Interagency Council on Homelessness (IAC). The IAC, a government-community partnership, is a diverse and experienced 33-person council that will address the complex problem of homelessness over the long-term. The Interagency Council is making permanent supportive housing a priority.

If you have any questions about IAC or Alberta’s plan to end homelessness, please visit www.humanservices.alberta.ca/homelessness.

As the MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin, I am always interested in engaging with constituents. Please feel free to contact my office at any time to share your ideas or questions at (780) 588-7979 orfortmcmurray.conklin@assembly.ab.ca