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October 20, 2022 Baycrest has been granted a $2.6M investment to sustain and expand its Virtual Behavioural Medicine program (VBM), as part of Ontario’s Plan to Stay Open: Health System Stability and Recovery. Provided by the Ministry of Long-Term Care (MLTC), the funding will allow the program to serve up to 300 patients per year, supporting the government’s plan to expand access to specialized supports and services, including behavioural support for individuals with dementia.

Baycrest’s VBM program was created at Baycrest in 2020, under the leadership of Dr. Morris Freedman to help individuals with dementia and responsive behaviours access highly specialized care in a more timely way. The program helps reduce the pressure on acute care hospital beds by offering virtual assessment and management for individuals with dementia in acute-care hospitals, long-term care homes, or in the community who are exhibiting severe responsive behaviours such as aggression, agitation and hallucinations.

“VBM is a highly innovative and responsive program that allows acute care hospitals, long-term care homes and family caregivers to provide better care for people living with dementia and improve their quality of life,” notes Scott Ovenden, President and CEO, Baycrest Hospital and Long Term Care Home. “Through the province of Ontario’s investment, we are proud to be able to expand this sector-leading program.”

VBM sees patients through virtual visits over the secure Ontario Telemedicine Network, and is a collaboration between the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest and the Toronto Central Behavioural Support for Seniors Program (TC-BSSP). The VBM team of specialists includes behavioural neurologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, pharmacists, mental health professionals, and the Behaviour Support Outreach team. Together, this team provides a rapid response and works in collaboration with the patient’s existing care team in their current location. In addition, it extends its network to family members in the community to help them develop and implement care plans, access behavioural and social supports and provide follow-up.

In 2022, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that the VBM program can reduce the need for hospital admissions by up to 60 per cent. This suggests that the VBM program is highly effective for managing the majority of patients living with severe neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia without the need to physically transfer them to a specialized program, thus avoiding unnecessary and upsetting changes in their environment.

The announcement is part of $30M in new funding that will be available this year to support MLTC-led initiatives, growing to $62 million in the out-years. This investment will improve the VBM program's success and ensure that many patients receive the custom care they greatly need.
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