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B.C. father pleads for more addiction recovery centres after losing son

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B.C. father pleads for more addiction recovery centres after losing son
There are growing signs that B.C.'s approach to illicit drugs is not working. Last week, a retired judge called for meaningful support and treatment for drug-addicted people. Julia Foy has the story of a family who feel the system let them down – May 11, 2024

Bruce Fraser remembers the last time he brought his son, Travis, to a detox facility to help him overcome a years-long struggle with substance abuse.

“He was so weak and skinny and in pain that I had to go into the building and ask for a wheelchair to bring him into the detox centre,” Fraser said, adding Travis saw a doctor and came out of the facility with two prescriptions.

“They said, ‘that’s it’ and sent him on his way.”

Three days later, Travis’ body was found in Surrey. The family is still awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

The grieving father is highlighting what he says is a desperate need for more addiction recovery options in B.C.

Fraser says his son was told the detox facility had a two to three-week waiting period. “Which in my opinion, I’m sure a lot of people’s opinions, there should never be a waiting period for these kids. Never. If they want help, they should get help that minute.”

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At Joshua House Recovery Centre, hidden in the mountains outside of Chilliwack, people struggling with addiction are often brought in the same day they call for help, whether they have income or not.

Joshua House is funded by several church groups and the B.C. government. It has more than 48 beds and offers wraparound services from intake to independent living. There is also no time limit on how long a resident can stay during their recovery journey.

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“A lot of times they don’t have those supports for staying clean long term,” said Joshua House founder Richard Korkowski.

“With us, we develop those as they move through the phases of our program, which allow them to have the support. Because it’s not just a one-time, one and done, 30-day, 60-day, 90-day lifestyle change. It takes years to develop those programs and have those rooted in their lives.”

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Gary Bayda came to Joshua House 17 years ago after years of addition and run-ins with the law.

“It’s amazing. What they’ve done for me and with me,” he said, stressing that the program’s length and wraparound method are what helped him.

“Please, don’t just put them in a 30-day program that is going to just cycle them through, because it doesn’t fix the inner problem. The drugs aren’t the problem. Where the problem is, is in us.”

There are few programs that offer both short- and long-term support like Joshua House, according to Korkowski, and he is unsure if the province would support the idea of more such facilities.

“From what I see, they (the provincial government) don’t support recovery. From what I see, they support harm reduction more so than they do long-term, stable recovery programs.”

Korkowski says from the moment someone decides to seek recovery options, there is a “razor-thin time frame” within which they need to be admitted to care or “you’re dooming them for failure.”

He says Joshua House aims to get people into care within 24 hours of them reaching out, but he also admits they have a waitlist and triage based on need.

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Health minister establishes task force on illicit drugs in hospitals

Another 192 people were killed in B.C. by illicit drugs in March. That number is down 11 per cent from the same month last year, but still represents part of a relentless death toll that has made illicit drugs the leading cause of death for those aged between 10 and 59.

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At least 572 people died in the first three months of this year, and fentanyl has been detected in 85 per cent of the unregulated drug deaths that have undergone toxicology testing.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced it is granting B.C.‘s request to once again ban the public use of illicit drugs.

B.C. currently has a three-year Criminal Code exemption for personal possession of drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines — up to 2.5 grams.

The goal has been to remove potential barriers from people seeking help by removing the fear of prosecution.

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Fraser knows it’s too late for his son, but he wants to government to open more recovery facilities as soon as possible.

“I want them to open up recovery houses, new ones, maybe somewhere open the country somewhere, maybe on an island that they can’t get off or they can’t get out, for these people,” he said.

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“I can’t imagine how many lives they could save. One death is too many. Please change. Don’t let this happen to your kid. It’s a terrible battle.”

With files from The Canadian Press and David Baxter

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