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New treatment beds helping with substance-use issues

JEFF BELL Times Colonist Vancouver Island is home to 29 of the 105 new substance-use-and-recovery beds now in place around B.C. — an effort to help lower the death rate from illicit-drug poisonings in B.C.
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CMHA B.C. chief executive Jonny Morris said issues with mental health and addiction often go hand-in-hand.
Vancouver Island is home to 29 of the 105 new substance-use-and-recovery beds now in place around B.C. — an effort to help lower the death rate from illicit-drug poisonings in B.C.

More than 1,500 people died from such poisonings in the first nine months of 2021.

The province previously announced $13 million over three years for the beds, and teamed up with the B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association Friday to outline how the money has been spent.

The beds are spread among 14 organizations across B.C., with 29 overseen by four organizations on Vancouver Island. Eight of those are former private-pay spaces that have been converted to publicly funded spaces, including three at the Comox Valley Transition Society and five at Nanaimo’s Edgewood Treatment Centre.

There are also 15 new beds for men at the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society and six for women at the Port Alberni Shelter Society.

“These beds have increased access to bed-based recovery services on the Island and are helping to address long-standing service gaps for Indigenous peoples, women and people transitioning from prison,” the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions said in a statement.

“Through these grants, we invested in organizations that already have infrastructure and expertise in place, and who were ready and able to quickly expand their capacity to more British Columbians in urgent need of care.”

The ministry said that by changing some beds from private-pay to public funding, access was made available to people “no matter the size of their pocketbook.”

CMHA B.C. chief executive Jonny Morris said issues with mental health and addiction often go hand-in-hand. He said the increase in beds was needed and treatment efforts are working, pointing to two men with addiction issues he talked to in Nanaimo who are now able to go back to their home areas.

One of them described his treatment as “life-saving,” Morris said. Both were part of a “therapeutic recovery community” program, he said.

“It brings people together in a living situation,” Morris said. “So they live together, make food together and engage in recovery together.”

It is one way to help people “find a path through their journey of recovery,” he said.

“There’s a whole range of things we can do in the area of substance use, like helping prevent substance-use problems in the first place.”

The provincial funding is certainly removing some of the barriers to accessing treatment, Morris said.

“From a CMHA perspective, it’s a tangible contribution to creating a system that gets the right care to the right people at the right time.”

jbell@timescolonist.com