Recovery-first is the philosophy behind a report published on July 18 by the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.
Dr. Evan Wood and Marshall Smith co-authored the 44-page report titled, The Path Forward.
“It’s time for a new path. British Columbia has long suffered because of the lack of an effective system to support individuals in and pursuing recovery from substance use disorders,” reads the report.
It said B.C. has focused much of its attention to reducing disease and saving lives through public health measures. While these tactics have saved lives, the report said B.C. needs to establish an “evidence-based continuum of care including building an effective and coordinated addiction treatment and recovery system that has traditionally been lacking.”
Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson, agrees the province is short of treatment facilities and said addiction recovery is a key factor to a homeless solution in Maple Ridge.
“It’s a health issue, not a housing issue. We are desperately short of (recovery and detox) facilities in the province and the government doesn’t fund the ones we have,” said Robson.
Robson said there’s only a handful of recovery facilities in Maple Ridge, and said the per diem they do receive is not enough to support them. Aside from funding issues, Robson said getting into a facility is too complex.
“You have to go through a complicated effort to get to detox, and once you get to detox, there’s nowhere to go. Most people on the streets, if they have the opportunity to go to treatment, sooner or later they will go. When they’re ready to go, you have to be ready to take them immediately otherwise, they change their minds.”
The report highlights that people in recovery often face stigma. The report also wants to break the myth that effective treatment and recovery are not realistic options.
“The majority of individuals with substance use disorders are capable of making positive change, growing and becoming positively reconnected to their broader community,” reads the report.
In a news release, Wood said, “There has been a longstanding need to expand effective, evidence-based recovery services in B.C. – a need that has become even more urgent in the midst of an overdose crisis.”
Robson too believes there’s a shortage of recovery facilities, and said recovery needs to come before housing.
“We need desperately at least 5,000 beds in B.C. If we’re going to do anything about this homeless problem, we have to start off dealing with addiction.”
Those in recovery experience many positive changes such as family relationships, health and wellness, legal issues, employment and education, and personal finances, said the report.
The Centre on Substance Use said the report acts as a “blueprint” for a system that can support individuals in seeking recovery from substance use.
“We really should have treatment on demand for those who need it. If we could physically see the damage these people are doing to their bodies, we’d hospitalize them immediately. If blood was running out of their eyes because of the damage their doing to the brain, we’d be calling the ambulance to take them to treatment,” added Robson.
On the same day, the Province of B.C. announced that 20 high priority B.C. communities will receive funding from the new Community Overdose Crisis Innovation Fund.
Maple Ridge’s community action team is one of the communities that will receive $100,000 from the provincial government to fight addiction and overdoses.
The money was announced last February, when the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions responded to the overdose crisis by dedicating an on-the-ground community action team in Maple Ridge, among other B.C. communities.
“The funding we have received will go to new initiatives that are part of building a coordinated community response,” said Kat Wahamaa, co-chair of Ridge Meadows Overdose Community Action Team.