A report on addiction resources says the city of Brandon needs medical detoxification beds, as well as people with lived experience to help those who want to recover navigate the system.
The five-page report was prepared by Westman Families of Addicts following consultations with families and those with first-hand experience going through recovery late last last year.
It was presented to Brandon city council on Monday night by Lonnie Patterson, the vice-president of the non-profit group, which focuses on advocacy and resources for families of people living with addiction. The group’s website says its ultimate goal is bringing a detox and recovery centre to Brandon.
Patterson said the first major need that was identified in the group’s report was a lack of medical detox beds in the city.
“This has been a reality in Brandon for years,” she said.
Patterson, a former city councillor who ran for the provincial NDP in last fall’s election, said people in the community have been advocating for more detox beds for years.
“Medical detox beds … are a key missing resource in Brandon right now,” Patterson said. “And that’s not to say that we don’t need other additional resources, but this is one that needs to be acted on.”
Among the recommendations, Westman Families of Addicts said rural communities need better access to clean needles, rapid access to addiction medicine, or RAAM, clinics and other supports.
The group also called for better training for rural doctors in understanding addictions, better counselling services and more front-line workers who have lived experience with addiction.
Deidra Taylor-John has that lived experience. She battled drug and alcohol addiction on and off since she was a teenager until 2017, when she decided enough was enough.
However, she said she found little in the way of help in the western Manitoba city and was told she had to detox before she entered any treatment program.
“I felt very hopeless,” Taylor-John told CBC News from her home in Oak River, about 50 kilometres northwest of Brandon.
“There’s just nothing there,” she said. “You kind of go back and forth in between … ‘should I just make this little effort’ or ‘it’s not even going to be worth it anyway’ … so a lot of despair.”
Taylor-John detoxed from her opioid addiction on her mother’s couch before entering residential treatment.
“It overtakes your body,” she said. “We did it together over a four-day period.”
Patterson said there are few options other than detoxing in the emergency room or in the holding cells of the Brandon Police Service.
“It is not the appropriate place,” said Patterson. “Brandon Regional Health Centre does have some alcohol withdrawal beds, but really what people in these positions need are medically trained staff that also understand addiction.”
The report by Westman Families of Addicts acknowledges there is patchwork of services available in the city, such as the 7th Street Health Access Centre, Crystal Meth Anonymous, the Community Health and Housing Association and Samaritan House, among others.
The Addictions Foundation of Manitoba also offers residential treatment in Brandon, and the province announced funding for 11 new treatment beds in Winnipeg and Brandon last October as part of a $4.2-million investment to be spread out over four years.
But Westman Families of Addicts wants to see more done to not only help those starting with recovery, but also to provide assistance to find housing, employment and social integration once they are on their path.
Taylor-John urged those seeking help and their families to not give up.
“I always tell them that they’re worth it — to really start loving yourself, and that’s where it comes from,” said Taylor-John. “It’s one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.”
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