Facilities are key in treating alcoholism, addiction

Re: The costs of alcohol (News, May 20)

On April 1 B.C. became the first jurisdiction in Canada to recognize and treat alcoholism as a chronic disease.

According to the article by Natalie North she states that in the last 10 years the mental health and addictions budget has increased 52 per cent to $1.3 billion.

Where is the money going? The billions from government funding is going to law enforcement, the court system and hospitals. We have extremely limited facilities in Victoria, especially when it comes to youth. For example, youth detox has a maximum seven- to 10-day stay time, with a five-person capacity, no connecting rehabilitation services, residential facilities for recovery or stable housing. The idea that paying doctors to take extra time to diagnose, and root out reasons behind someone’s problem drinking before their condition worsens doesn’t seem like much of a step in any meaningful direction.

The doctor’s get the funding and the youth still have no facilities?

B.C. could start with stepping up to the plate, and following Alberta’s youth legislation. Alberta’s Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act, which requires persons under 18 with an apparent alcohol or drug problem to participate, with or without their agreement, in an assessment and subsequent outpatient treatment or in a program within a protective safe house.

Victoria has spent millions of dollars on a real jail for youth – now lets put some money towards facilities and services that offer a different route, even when law enforcement, the court system and corrections are involved.

Again, what about following Alberta’s lead with: youth intervention facilities that umbrella programs involving mental health, addictions, sexually exploited youth, detox,  recovery, rehabilitation and residential services?

Tim Stockwell director of the centre for Addictions Research B.C. points out: “A recent study has suggested that we’ve hugely underestimated the number of cancer deaths caused by drinking.” If any of this gets the ball rolling to finally provide some long-needed services and facilities, I am all for it.

Conversely, the provincial government passing the buck to mental health and addictions hasn’t worked out well so far, even with that increase to $1.3 billion – we still have minimal or no services. We have needed to offer programs that focus on peer support and prevention. It seems it is, as always, about money, but the idea of focusing on youth, and eventually costing the government and taxpayers less money in the long-term may finally have some pull.

I have spent the past 30-plus years working with youth that have been involved in the court system and corrections in some capacity. I’ve also worked with teens that have not been involved in any legal system, but still have a high need for help with issues relating to alcohol and addictions, and mental health services. How can there still be such a lack of facilities in Victoria?

What I have learned is that legislation is the real way to make change. How can this not be a better approach and focus than the current standard? Why pay doctors to take extra time to identify, assess and treat problem drinkers when many are not trained in the area of addiction? Is a doctor’s appointment really considered treatment?

What help is a diagnosis with no public facilities for real treatment? Facilities would be a much better investment for funding, and in some provinces that will require legislation.

Cindy Jones

executive, Vancouver Island

Criminal Justice Association