A refusal of provincial government funding is putting some Alberta addiction treatment centres at risk of shutting their doors.
The majority of treatment centres in Alberta rely on a per diem rate — a room and board fee that providers can invoice to the provincial government.
The rate currently sits at $40 a day per client and hasn’t increased or been reviewed in almost a decade.
The Alberta Addiction Service Providers, a group representing over 30 treatment centres, appealed to the Ministry of Community and Social Services asking for the rate to be increased to $60 per day.
The minister responsible denied their request.
As a result, Simon House Recovery Centre has been forced, for the first time in their history, to ask clients to pay for a portion of their recovery process. Trevor Loria, president and CEO of Simon House, said it’s a choice they didn’t want to make.
“Our biggest concern is people are dying,” Loria said.
“When you place barriers like payments, it increases the likelihood they won’t seek help and may become a statistic to this opioid crisis here in Alberta.”
An increasing number of people are dying from overdoses every day in Alberta and those who are in recovery say if they had to pay they wouldn’t have sought treatment.
Charles Rosevear is going into his fourth month clean and sober from a drug and alcohol addiction.
“It would have been suicide. I would have used until I died if I hadn’t got into this program,” Rosevear said.
“If there had a been a fee or someone said I need $2,500, I would have succumbed and I would be on the streets breaking into your house to steal from you to feed my addiction. I guarantee it.”
The Ministry of Community and Social Services is responsible for the per diem rate. Spokesperson Kate Toogood said in a statement to Global News that the department is “committed to making it easier for Albertans to access help when they need it, whether it’s in the form of residential addictions treatment or opioid dependency treatment.”
“This fall, we opened new opioid treatment spaces in several facilities in Calgary and Edmonton, providing treatment for more than 2,000 new patients every year,” the statement reads.
“Some of those new spaces are at recovery centres like Renfrew and Alpha House, so that patients receiving detox can be initiated onto Suboxone or methadone while they are inpatients at those facilities.”
Toogood went on to say that with the economy still recovering from a downturn, the government has no plans to change the per diem. She said the request would be revisited when the province is in a better financial situation.
“Instead of making reckless cuts, we are protecting the treatment benefit so that income support and AISH clients can access Residential Addictions Treatment,” Toogood said.
“This is in addition to addictions treatment funding provided to treatment facilities by the Ministry of Health.”