I am delighted that the voices of addicts and their families are finally being heard. After years of fighting with addictions services for treatment for our loved ones; desperately sharing publicly our frustrations with the lack of treatment; and begging the government to listen, we are getting a response.
During these years of fighting for help for our loved ones….
Some of us buried our children.
Some addicts received criminal records that will follow them for the rest of their lives.
Others developed life-long health problems as a result of years of using.
I could add more examples of the high human cost of leaving addiction untreated for so long, but I won’t. These things cannot be undone but they can be prevented from happening to so many others.
To be fair, PEI is not the only province that waited this long to take action on the prescribing of opiates. However, we are the only one without a residential treatment centre for those who do become addicted.
It is well known that the longer one uses, the harder it is to get clean. Treatment has to be immediately available in order to have the best outcomes possible. To do this, we need a residential treatment centre right here on PEI. We need it TODAY!
As we look to fix this huge problem, I have some difficult questions to ask because I think they are important in the face of an epidemic that we are looking to solve:
1. Who is responsible for this situation with addictions reaching an epidemic level? This epidemic did not happen overnight. During a public forum in 2007, there was a discussion on the rising use of opiates among our Island youth. Why did it take six years to address this issue?
2. Why didn't Health PEI (and its predecessor) raise awareness of this issue a long time ago? Mt. Herbert has access to all the data on their patients, including ages, drugs of choice, and sheer volume of people needing the services. Why were the alarm bells not sounded much sooner than this?
3. If Health PEI was raising alarm bells, why did government not take immediate action to fix the problem? Furthermore, why was the public not informed like they would be for any serious health issue like Sars or Swine Flu? Why did so many people have to get sick first with this horrible disease? Why didn’t we try to protect our youth with more prevention programs? Why were notices not sent to parents notifying them that there was a new type of drug (opiate) in town and our kids were seeking them out?
4. Families and addicts have been saying for many years that the treatment being offered was inadequate. In the face of stigma, we shared our stories in the media because we were so desperate to find help for our addicted loved ones. Why was this important feedback from patients and their families not taken seriously? When you want to know how well you are doing, you ask the people who use your services. It is that simple!
5. If Health PEI, in consultation with the management on the ground at addiction services, failed to identify this crisis for what it was, should the same people be responsible for implementing the solution and creating new programs? If they did identify the crisis but the government did not respond, then we need a stronger voice to stand up for the patients.
6. Should we ask our addictions expert, Dr. Denise Lea, to take on a management role and lead the changes that need to happen within addiction services? Perhaps she might be enticed to stay if she felt she had some control over the situation. I’ve worked with Dr. Lea on different addiction-related projects and she has the passion and knowledge to get the job done with the proper investment from government.
This post is not meant to offend. It is meant to start an important conversation that will lead to real answers and real change for our neighbours and families battling addiction.