March 23rd, 2018

Harm strategy staff coming to detox facility

By Gillian Slade on March 10, 2018.

Medicine Hat Recovery Centre will add two members of staff to focus on harm reduction strategies and provide support for clients to navigate services to get established after treatment programs. From left, Debbie Vass, manager Medicine Hat Recovery Centre; Jane Gyorkos, assistant head nurse in the detoxification unit; and Clifton Campbell, addiction counsellor.--NEWS PHOTO GILLIAN SLADE 

Medicine Hat Recovery Centre will add two members of staff to focus on harm reduction strategies and provide support for clients to navigate services after treatment programs.

They will help to inform family physicians, stakeholders and the public, said Debbie Vass, manager Medicine Hat Recovery Centre. A nurse practitioner will be working to connect clients to appropriate services in the health system and community for support in addiction recovery after treatment programs.

If there is a positive aspect to the “opioid crisis” it is that the subject of addiction is out in the open now and the government is recognizing the need for assistance. Like mental health it has raised awareness, said Jane Gyorkos, assistant head nurse in the detoxification unit of MHRC.

Addiction is not a moral failure but rather an indication of a chronic disease. Appropriate help can see the person gain strength to lead a healthier life, said Gyorkos, who uses the example of a treatable disease such as diabetes. Insulin is not a cure but helps the person live a productive life with the disease.

There is increased knowledge and understanding of treatments that are successful for people with an addiction. Abstinence is still encouraged but helping clients attain an improved quality of life, which addresses some of the causes of the addiction, is important. Many clients abstain but they are still at high risk of relapsing, said Vass.

It is important for MHRC to be a welcoming place so clients who relapse, or need support, want to reach out for help. That requires removing the shame and stigma of addiction, said Clifton Campbell, addiction counsellor.

“Relapse is an inherent feature of this chronic disease and any chronic disease,” said Vass.

Relapse can happen in good times and bad times when there are triggers for the client, said Campbell.

Medically-assisted addiction treatment moves people off substances acquired on the street to pharmaceutically-controlled substances such as methadone and buprenorphine (commonly known as suboxone) given in secure environments. There is the potential over time for the person to reach the point where they are slowly weaned off those medications.

Not everyone reaches that point, especially if there is a psychological addiction present while on suboxone and methadone, said Vass. At the moment those having this treatment need a prescription and then must go to a specific location, often a pharmacy, every day for that day’s dose. This can interfere with employment and there can be difficulties reaching the location consistently.

This treatment does provide benefits to the individual and society, said Gyorkos. It can reduce crime, make employment possible and restore family relationships.

Naloxone kits are now made available to all clients who are discharging from MHRC. Clients are trained in the use of the kits as well as family and friends where possible.

It is almost two years since Medicine Hat Recovery Centre first opened.

Gyorkos says there have been huge strides in treatment since then and it is exciting to see the impact on peoples’ lives.

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