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B.C.’s Road to Recovery targets those at risk of an overdose

B.C. Premier Eby celebrates ‘first-of-its-kind’ seamless addictions care program in Vancouver
People hold banners during a march to remember those who died during the overdose crisis and to call for a safe supply of illicit drugs on International Overdose Awareness Day, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, August 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

British Columbia Premier David Eby says a new model of streamlining access to detox and addiction treatment aims to address the needs of people who repeatedly overdose, while avoiding the possibility of involuntary treatment.

St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver launched it’s Road to Recovery initiative this fall, offering immediate assessments and a team to plan treatment and followup care, with the aim of seamless transition into treatment and other services.

Dr. Seonaid Nolan, an addictions-medicine physician with Providence Health Care, says people at the highest risk, who would sometimes have to wait weeks to access detox, are now able to get it in days.

Eby says the model addresses people who repeatedly overdose in a way that respects their ability to make their own decisions and avoids the risk that they won’t call for help if they think they might be held against their will.

In 2020, the B.C. government proposed mandatory treatment for youth who repeatedly overdosed but gave up the plan after facing heavy criticism.

Eby told Postmedia during his NDP leadership campaign in 2022 that involuntary care should be an option for people who run the risk of serious health consequences from multiple overdoses.

On Monday, Eby said voluntary options for treatment need to be available.

“I don’t think that it’s right to say, ‘OK, well, the issue here is that we need to force more people into care’ if you’re not able to actually offer the care on a voluntary basis to the people who are ready to go,” he said.

“And so, this model aims to address the issue in a way that respects the individual’s ability to make their own decisions. And for when they’re ready, that the care will be ready for them.”

Road to Recovery operates 34 beds. The B.C. government says by March 2025 that will grow to 25 detox beds, 20 transition beds and 50 treatment and recovery beds.

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