06 November 2022 – 15:31
Politicians have for years been calling for more detox and rehab facilities in Kamloops and the Okanagan in hopes of curbing rampant crime that is often fueled by the need to feed a habit.
And it’s well known that when a person is ready to detox, they need help right away, not in a week or two or more when a bed becomes available.
“Substance use services, in general, haven’t been invested in over the years,” Corinne Dolman, substance use services manager for Interior Health, told iNFOnews.ca. “But we are seeing significant investment. We should see significant improvements in wait times.
In cities like Kamloops and Kelowna, it can take one to two weeks to get into a rehab bed while some communities in the area, like Castlegar, aren’t filling their available beds.
New “outpatient withdrawal management services” have been added to the mix, as many people can detox at home.
“It’s a bit wrong to say that everyone has to go to a facility for treatment,” Dolman said. “In fact, we really encourage people to try the least intrusive treatment, which is outpatient counselling. Or, Kelowna and Kamloops both have intensive day treatment programs. If you have a stable place to reside in, you can actually walk in and participate in a day treatment group and you don’t have to go to a facility.
Even people going through physical withdrawal from alcohol or certain drugs can do so at home if they have help not only at home, but also from doctors prescribing the necessary medications and nurses on call.
For those withdrawing from opioids, a safe substitute can be prescribed that allows users to stabilize without having to go to a facility.
The province added 22 indoor “addiction” beds this year, not all of which are open yet. This includes, for example, eight at The Bridge Youth and Family Services in Kelowna. This will allow them to run male and female programs at the same time instead of having them staggered by gender every few weeks.
“Hopefully with the new investments across the province, the need to go to a private facility and pay thousands and thousands of dollars will decrease significantly,” Dolman said. “It’s a complex condition. Some people are desperate and families are desperate and they want help for their loved ones. But, I don’t think you would see better success with expensive private treatments than with government funded ones.
As of June, there were 3,272 publicly funded “community drug beds” for adults and youth in British Columbia. Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, told iNFOnews.ca in an email.
Of these, 269 were inside.
British Columbia is also focusing on harm reduction to provide safe injection sites and opioid substitutes as part of “continuity of care”.
“Harm reduction is really about meeting them where they are and not leaving them there, but helping them move up the continuum with the intention of providing people with substances that are not toxic,” said said Dolman. “It’s not to cure them. This is to prevent them from dying so that once they are ready for treatment they will be alive and able to access these services.
In all of this, measuring success is very difficult.
Although it is relatively easy to track the number of people who complete a program, tracking their progress a year or two later is the type of data that is now beginning to be collected.
And, while things like 12-step programs often focus on sobriety as a measure, Interior Health uses no 12-step measures at all.
“Sobriety is a very narrow definition of success,” Dolman said. “If someone is in treatment and they’re healthy and their relationships are improving, but they’re still using a substance, but in a way that’s more conducive to a healthy lifestyle, then I think we would call it a success.”
While some beds and outpatient services are being added, Dolman is unaware of any plans for more in the future. These will probably be needed.
“I think it’s definitely getting better,” she said. “It’s a lot better than seeing no investment, but we really need to make fairly large investments over a long period of time if we’re going to get this under control.”
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