Moving forward 

Alcohol and drug treatment options insufficient, additional services needed in Pemberton valley

A consultant hired to examine the feasibility of a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Pemberton and Mount Currie has found that the communities do, in fact, need additional services to help with substance abuse problems.

Rick FitzZaland, president of NG Bach & Associates, says there is an undeniable issue with drug and alcohol abuse within the communities, which will require stronger recovery programs than are currently available.

“I think we’re looking at a physical facility, but the community has to say that,” he said this week.

“Maybe they’ve got space that they want to reallocate, maybe they want to re-use the space that they’ve got in a different way… but I believe that they probably need a new facility for that.”

While FitzZaland says “on paper” there is a sufficient service network for alcohol and drug services throughout the corridor, that isn’t actually the case.

“In reality, there are huge barriers for the people in Pemberton and Mount Currie to access those services in a timely fashion, and with alcohol and drug treatment particularly, a long waiting list destroys the effectiveness of the program.”

He explained that once people are at the stage of admitting they have a problem and taking steps to deal with it, they then must go on a lengthy waiting list, often waiting for months, to begin detox.

Once they manage to get into detox, they must then wait again to get into a support recovery program.

Existing services also require people to leave their communities and often, their families, to enter treatment programs in Squamish, Vancouver, the Okanagan or Vancouver Island. This is especially problematic for parents who want to enter treatment and recovery programs — in many cases, they are forced to choose between getting healthy and caring for their children.

“There are just so many barriers,” said FitzZaland. “It’s not that it can’t be done, but it takes a Herculean effort on the part of the person seeking recovery and their families.”

FitzZaland, who was hired by the Winds of Change Committee earlier this year to conduct the study, said the current situation is people from Pemberton and Mount Currie may find themselves sobering up in Squamish Hospital, or voluntarily being locked up at the local jail, both of which are inadequate strategies.

While FitzZaland’s study is part of the committee’s attempt to improve services within the region — one of the 13 recommendations identified in the initial Winds of Change report compiled in 2004 — he emphasized that the community must continue to move forward with the 12 other recommendations, and not simply focus on treatment.

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