There are about 10 new people every month who reach out to Forward Houses’ Recovery Program, looking for help in dealing with substance use and addiction, says Sareh, Recovery Program co-ordinator.
Some of her clients are seniors who’ve dealt with chronic pain for years with help from prescription drugs, but their new doctor wouldn’t continue the prescription. Ultimately, they’ve turned to street drugs for relief, and then to the Recovery Program, says Sareh.
Many clients dealing with opioid addictions are fully employed. Men in the trades are a large demographic, she says – using opioids to get through pain and long working hours, or just to relax after a grueling schedule.
Some of her clients don’t have homes, or are unstably housed, or are dealing with alcohol addiction or eating disorders.
But she has about 50 people a month (even during pandemic restrictions) using the Recovery Program as a way to figure out what kind of help they want, what is available, and how to access it. United Way British Columbia is proud to fund that work.
That’s the good news – many people are looking to address their substance use or addictions challenges.
The bad news is that there is a severe lack of resources available in the Oceanside area (where Forward House operates), says Sareh.
“We do have long waitlists to get into our [local] detox facility,” she says, which is where you go to be supported as you work to abstain from drug use and go through withdrawal. This can be medically dangerous to do, and medical support as you go through it can be very important.
“There is only one detox facility for all of central and north Vancouver Island, and that’s in Nanaimo, and it’s only 12 beds,” says Sareh. “So it serves lots of different communities.”
It can take six weeks to two months to access detox. Then it’s another two weeks to two months to get into a treatment centre. That’s after being sent back to whatever situation you came out of. For those without homes, that means going back to the street while awaiting treatment. “[And] we don’t have a treatment centre in our area. The closest one is Comox Valley Recovery Centre.”
Treatment is also very expensive.
“So we have people in our community who desperately need services, that need support, and there is just not anything out there for them.”
But Forward House’s Recovery Program is there.
“We offer free drug and alcohol counselling … free one-on-one recovery coaching, and we really help people sort of navigate the health care system so that they can access the services that they need,” as well as offering other services and connections, says Sareh.
More good news is that, despite the lack of greatly needed resources, including additional treatment beds, second stage housing and more, recovery does happen. Sareh and others who work for the Recovery Program are evidence of that.
“I’m trained as a registered nurse, and then became a patient advocate, and I’m also someone with lived experience,” says Sareh. “I’ve been in recovery for over 24 years.”
“Everyone has the capacity to heal themselves with the right support,” she says.
There are many who are seeking that support, and Forward House’s Recovery Program is there to help folks navigate a complicated and burdensome system while providing counselling and healing opportunities.
But the truth is the right support is often missing, and Sareh and others at the Recovery Program are left to help people navigate a broken system.
There is no lack of people trying to get help. But there is a lack of services.