Open house sheds light on Central Okanagan addiction treatment resources
With funding cuts to local addiction treatment services in recent years, increasing importance is being placed on the awareness of what's still out there for those in need.
Last Thursday, representatives from more than 30 agencies that actively work to assist people struggling with substance abuse were on hand for the fourth annual open house at Trinity Baptist Church during National Addictions Awareness Week.
"We've had several recovery homes close in this community in the last year. We had a couple resources close their doors permanently," said Christene Walsh, social development coordinator with the Regional District of the Central Okanagan.
Walsh said changes in service can impact the recovery of those struggling with substance abuse.
"Sometimes you have a brief window when people need help—there's only so long you can engage them before you lose them again.
"So when you lose a service or a service changes, if people don't know or were not in tune with each other to work together, people who have complex issues can fall through the cracks and then lots of other things happen in our community: Some people turn to crime, other people die. It really has a strong impact."
Many of those in attendance were family members or friends of people affected by addictions. The open house gave them an opportunity to gather information about how they can help their loved ones.
"You can go to a booth, learn about a resource, move on and still be anonymous, or if you don't want to be anonymous, you can share your story and set up a follow-up meeting."
Walsh added the event gives representatives from the various resources a chance to network and share ideas about how the services can team up to benefit those suffering from various addictions.
Dale Wagner, clinical director at Crossroads Integrative Addiction Services, said those conversations can be valuable.
"Our ability to network means better service for the clients. Our ability to know who else in the community can help with a particular need…is a huge benefit," said Wagner.
Crossroads is a six-week residential treatment program with separate streams for men and women. Clients spend time in group counselling and completing workshops that help them deal with "the whole picture."
Wagner said Crossroads has also had to deal with cuts to funding.
"We've probably been experiencing that for a number of years, so we are in discussions with the health authority, who is our primary funding source, around trying to find funding that matches the actual service that we're delivering.
"There are lots of ways as a clinical director of the program I would like to enhance our program, but funding is really where our constraints are."
According to Walsh, the Central Okanagan still lacks some key services as well.
"I've been advocating for over five years for a sobering centre," said Walsh.
"We have recovery homes, we have shelters, we have supportive living, but for the people who aren't ready to get well, who are actively causing chaos, we have nothing for them."
She said she'd like to see a resource that engages the active user, rather than a "crack shack."
Walsh said she has gotten significant positive feedback about the event and plans to keep the open house running in years to come.