Fraser Health is ramping up its campaign against addiction by expanding access to methadone and suboxone programs at Alouette Addictions Services in Maple Ridge.
The two drugs provide a bridge to people trying to escape addiction to opiates, such as heroin, and allow them to function.
“We’re going to be getting funding for additional services for folks, but we will not be a safe-injection site,” said Annika Polegato, executive-director with Alouette Addictions Services.
The extra money will allow the program to expand from treating 300 people to 340.
Fraser Health announced Tuesday that it’s expanding its opiod substitution treatment programs in Maple Ridge and Abbotsford, as well as identified two proposed supervised drug consumption sites in Surrey.
Alouette Addictions already operates a clinic with three doctors who provide prescriptions for methadone or suboxone. Those prescriptions are then filled at local pharmacies.
“There’s been lots of conversation around what the change in service would look like … the costs …”
But details aren’t yet available, Polegato added.
“From my perspective, we’re thrilled that Fraser Health has selected us as a site that’s going to get more manpower, and more resources for the community. The more we have available for the clients, the better, right?”
Currently, about 300 people are on a methadone treatment program at Alouette Addictions. Any additional funding from Fraser Health will help ensure that Alouette continues to have enough counsellors and that people can continue to get help without going on a waiting list.
Dr. Victoria Lee, chief medical health officer with Fraser Health, said opioid substitution treatment is a first-line treatment to help people deal with addiction, which is considered a chronic condition, like diabetes, and requires a lifelong management.
“Sometimes people think that detox is what’s required. But when we look at opioids, specifically, detox puts people at risk of overdose deaths,” because if they relapse, their drug tolerance would have dropped.
Providing methadone treatment allows people to access counseling and health services, Polegato said.
“It’s a first-line treatment that links to other services, as well.”
With increasing overdose fatalities, many attributable to fentanyl, Maple Ridge is still being considered for a safe consumption site.
From January to October this year, 24 people died in Maple Ridge from drug overdoses. Figures for November aren’t available.
But Polegato said the latter was the worst month of the year, with the arrival now of carfentenil, which is 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
“Maple Ridge has been identified as one of the higher risk communities within our region because of the number of overdose deaths …” said Lee.
The City of Maple Ridge and local groups would be involved in the process of determining a site.
Lee added there’s a desire to speed up the process for approval of safe consumption sites.
“Given the numbers that we’re seeing in overdoses … in November, because of substances such as carfentanil … we’d like to move as quickly as possible where we see the benefits of supervised consumption services.”
She said Fraser Health is also putting more money into outreach and has distributed 2,300 naloxone kits.
Naloxone is an antidote for a opioid overdoses, such as from fentanyl. There are also 56 locations where naloxone kits can be accessed.
Two locations have already been identified in Surrey for safe consumption sites, and in the next few weeks Fraser Health will host open houses in that city for nearby residents. Following that, an application still needs approval by Health Canada.