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'We often set them up for relapse': Current addictions treatment not enough for Sask. doctors


At the Saskatchewan Medical Association’s (SMA) conference, the province’s doctors voiced their concerns about the gaps they see in the current model of addictions treatment and detox.

The Newo Yotina Friendship Centre sees firsthand the struggles individuals in crisis go through when they want to get help.

Emile Gariepy, manager of harm reduction, said there are often long waitlists to get into detox and treatment centres. To stay on those lists, people must call the centre every day.

“What if they miss just one day because they don’t have a phone at their disposal in their pocket,” he said. “If that gap happens and you get jumped all the way down to the bottom and you’re waiting weeks to get in.”

As the chair of the SMA’s addiction medicine section, Dr. Peter Butt has seen the waitlists as an issue for the province for a long time.

“The desire to go into detox is a widow of opportunity for change that opens and closes,” he said. “It’s a challenge for people that are in chaos to keep on phoning in order to get a bed.”

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said a typical in-patient treatment cycle lasts about 28 days, with the opportunity to be extended.

Dr. Butt believes there is lack of supports for those going through detox and recovery.

“Our system of care doesn’t provide adequate support during these transitions for long enough periods of time for people to be successful,” he said. “Unfortunately, we often set them up for relapse.”

Butt added it takes between three to 12 months for someone to be considered in remission from an addiction. Over 12 months is considered sustained remission.

“What do we offer people? Seven to 10 days of detox and then 28 days in an in-patient bed,” he told the Minister of Mental Heath and Addictions during a question-and-answer session. “When it comes to cancer care, we don’t think twice about providing care until they’re in remission.”

Minister Hindley insisted the province is focused on getting better supports in place.

“We need to make sure we have a system that is easy to understand,” he told doctors. “So they don’t have trouble navigating as a patient or even as a health care provider.”

The Ministry of Health said it is adding to those supports.

“50 pre and post treatment spaces were created to support bridging people from detox to treatment and from treatment into the community.”

The ministry added the province is investing $470 million into mental health and addictions services over the next year.

However, for Gariepy, that is not enough.

“I want to see a more hands on approach after you get out of rehab,” he said. “Instead of pushing you out the door with information, support workers need to be there for you.”

The SMA said the solution is not one-size fits all but is something that requires collaboration.

“We need to draw on other resources where there is synergy with social services, supportive housing, community organizations, the ministry of health and even health care providers,” he said. “All of this will create an environment that will help people to continue for that one or two years they need to really make the change in their life, get their feet under them and move forward.” Top Stories

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