The Interior Health Authority will open 16 substance use treatment beds in the Kootenay Boundary next year.
The contract will be awarded this summer and the facility is expected to be ready by the summer of 2017, according to Chris Huston, the IHA’s mental health and substance abuse adminstrator. He says the facility will fill an important gap.
“This is something that we have not provided in the area before,” Huston said.
The exact location of the facility is not yet known.
Cheryl Dowden, executive director of ANKORS, says the announcement is good news because currently people have to go to Kamloops, Kelowna, or the Lower Mainland for treatment.
“I am thrilled to hear these beds are coming to our region,” she said. “For people who want to go through detox and treatment there have been so many challenges. So having detox and treatment available closer to home is huge.”
ANKORS provides a variety of harm-reduction and education services related to sexual health, drug use, addiction and HIV.
A private company will run the planned facility under contract to the IHA. It will have eight support recovery beds and eight withdrawal management beds.
The withdrawal beds are a form of short term acute care commonly known as detox.
“If you think of the substance use as a continuum,” Huston says, “the beginning is withdrawal. Someone is actively using to the point where substance misuse is taking up a great part of their life and if they stopped they could experience life-threatening symptoms. So we provide a place with physician and professional nursing support to allow them to withdraw safely with a medication managed process.”
He said withdrawal management is a short term process, usually five to seven days.
“For some it is the beginning of change, but for others it is just a break. They may be so medically compromised that if they stopped the substance abuse for a period of time, the medical benefit [of the break] could be significant for them, even without a commitment to stop using in the future. But for some people this initiates the supports that will allow them to make a profound change in their lives, curbing or abstaining from substance abuse.”
The eight recovery beds, Huston says, are for longer term treatment — from one to six months — and are for people who want to discontinue substance use, “but who are not feeling able or comfortable to do that in their home setting in their family or community, so a support recovery bed is a place with professional support that would help them maintain their goal of recovery.”
The treatment is residential — the patient will live in a small apartment in the facility.
The service will be staffed with life skills support workers trained to work in substance abuse and mental health. Also during their stay, patients will be in contact with a variety of other outside supports for both their physical and mental health.
“You would be committing to a health care plan of recovery,” Huston says, “and having somebody check in with you to support recovery and maintain your health care goals.”
The facility will be part of a larger program of 73 beds to be introduced across the health authority, including four support beds to be provided by an aboriginal organization in an as-yet-unknown location.
Dowden says the new programs will remove a significant barrier.
“We are standing in the needle exchange and someone says, ‘I am really tired of this, I want to pack it in,’ and we have that conversation around detox and treatment, and we see the barriers and the wait times, and people get frustrated and discouraged.”