Victoria councillor calls for residential addiction treatment

Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday is calling on the province to make residential treatment and recovery facilities accessible to people suffering from addictions.

And the city should investigate zoning options that would make establishing sober recovery houses in residential zones easier, Loveday said.

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Loveday will seek support from council colleagues next week to have Mayor Lisa Helps write Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy asking that the province open publicly funded and financially accessible treatment and recovery facilities on lower Vancouver Island.

He’s also asking that council direct staff to report back with options for allowing sober housing for people in recovery within residential zones. Sober houses are substance-free, supportive living facilities for people recovering from substance abuse.

“I’ve heard from many people how hard it is to get into treatment and recovery for people who live in the city of Victoria and in the region,” Loveday said.

“I think that in a time of an addiction crisis in the province of B.C. we have a role play in advocating and also finding local solutions for people who are living with addictions.”

Many people face long wait-lists, financial impediments or are having to travel off Vancouver Island — all factors that block them from receiving treatment, Loveday said.

Island Health says it has access to five provincial, publicly funded substance-use treatment beds in private treatment facilities at Cedars (Cobble Hill) and Phoenix (Surrey).

Access to a specific bed at any given time depends on client need and bed availability.

Marshall Smith, chairman of the B.C. Recovery Council, applauded Loveday’s motion.

“Very clearly there needs to be more options for funded treatment. That is very clear and I think there needs to be a lot more clarity around the zoning and process for the opening of recovery homes,” Smith said.

He said city zoning bylaws need to be rewritten to allow for recovery homes as a permitted use in residential areas so that operators “can come out of the shadows.”

“Many of the recovery homes in the Victoria area are illegal,” Smith said, noting “a lack of a clear pathway to have them done properly.”

Loveday notes that addiction is a disease that “requires a range of responses, including prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery.”

He points out that in 2011 the city endorsed a five-pillar strategy to addictions — prevention, harm reduction, treatment and supportive recovery, housing and enforcement.

A Life in Recovery from Addiction in Canada survey conducted in 2016 by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and National Recovery Advisory Committee, found more than half of Canadians who go through drug and alcohol recovery programs don’t relapse after treatment.

The report found 51.2 per cent of addicts achieved recovery without experiencing a single relapse, while more than 90 per cent reported a major improvement in their quality of life.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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