(THE NEWS/files)                                Annika Polegato, executive-director with Alouette Addiction Services.

(THE NEWS/files) Annika Polegato, executive-director with Alouette Addiction Services.

Attempt to speed access to treatment in Maple Ridge

Alouette Addictions will be central referral agency.

Fraser Health is trying to speed up and streamline getting people into drug treatment by making Alouette Addiction Services as the lead referral agency.

Prior to Nov. 1, people could approach local treatment centres directly, such as the Maple Ridge Treatment Centre, Inner Visions, Hannah House or Hope for Freedom Society, be interviewed and possibly admitted.

But the new system in place means that people are assessed first by trained counsellors at Alouette Addictions. They evaluate each client’s needs.

Their files are then referred to Fraser Health, which places people into various treatment centres where space is available around Metro Vancouver. People can also choose particular locations or treatment centres they want to attend.

“I think that’s the ultimate goal, is to improve access to service. That’s the plan,” said Annika Polegato, with Alouette Addictions.

Doing full, clinical assessments at the start could increase efficiencies so that Fraser Health knows what drugs people are using or if they’re using suboxone or methadone, if they need a medical detox or not, she added.

If people just show up a treatment centre with no medical or medications history, that could put that facility and staff at risk, “if we don’t have a really healthy knowledge of their needs and complexities,” Polegato said.

Fraser Health wants the clinical assessments done “so that we’re getting a better fit, the first time around.”

If someone’s on suboxone and they’re placed somewhere that doesn’t take such patients, it ties up the entire system, she added.

“We want to set people up for success, so that’s the goal.”

There’s no fee for any of the services, she added.

Maple Ridge Coun. Gordy Robson, though, worries the new system is too bureaucratic and will delay people getting into treatment by two or three weeks.

Previously, people would be interviewed at each drug treatment centre, then could be admitted that day, if there was room.

“They [treatment facilities] are losing the control of intake so they will not be the ones selecting the ones who fit the best with their operations. They will be taking whoever Fraser Health decides to send there,” Robson said.

“We lose our ability here to get somebody into these treatment houses in Maple Ridge quickly. We think it’s going to be a major problem for people trying to get into treatment.”

So far, 16 people have shown up at Alouette Addictions for such referrals in addition to their regular caseload.

Under the new system, it’s going to take two meetings to get into treatment.

“If someone came in today and said, ‘I want to go to treatment today,’ to the best of my knowledge, that wouldn’t likely happen,” Polegato said.

According to Fraser Health, people will need only one referral and to access to facilities across the region.

“With the previous system, a client would need multiple referrals, for access to multiple services providers,” said Tusleem Juma, with Fraser Health.

The health authority’s mobile substance abuse access team can also do such referrals, she added.

Juma said that clients will be screened and matched to services “based on their needs and preference.” High needs cases will be prioritized and people can choose the location or a particular residential treatment program.

She added that a person’s health-care provider can refer to the new service and that if someone doesn’t have a doctor.