LETHBRIDGE – ARCHES Lethbridge, formerly the Lethbridge HIV Connection, says it sees thousands of people each year dealing with addictions. Tannia Los is a registered psychologist with ARCHES and says finding a place for those desperate to get into treatment–especially residential treatment–can take up to six months.
“It’s really hard right now. The closest would be Medicine Hat that’s opening and then there is one in Calgary,” Loss said. “If somebody comes in today and asks for a medical detox, we have to find them a way to get to Calgary, and it’s quite a process. Especially because a lot of people are street level and they don’t have the ability to get transportation to Calgary or Medicine Hat.”
The Alberta government says it will act immediately on six of 32 recommendations to flow from a review of the province’s addiction and mental health system. One of those is eight medical detox beds for Lethbridge.
READ MORE: How Alberta hopes to help improve mental health and addictions services
“When people come in and are using drugs, and they want help, it’s almost a ‘right now’ type thing. If we say, ‘well sorry, there are no beds available, come back in a week’ the likelihood of that happening is small,” Los explained.
Agencies that work with adult addiction, like South Country Treatment Centre in Lethbridge, say detox beds are a great start in addressing the larger issues of mental health and addictions, but just a small piece of a larger crisis.
“My concerns are in the existing services and contracted services with the province,” John Laforest, with South Country Treatment Centre, said. “For our agency we have not seen an increase to our budget in the last three or four years. “It’s disconcerting when you are talking about expanding services and building when you can’t fund adequate existing services, or treat them with more compensation for the work they do.”
The government says it will also work with First Nations to develop an opiate additions action plan, and will launch a child and youth mental health website this spring.