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Saskatchewan mothers flag gaps in province’s addictions, overdose response

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WATCH: A Saskatchewan woman says her son overdosed five times. When he was ready to get help, the family had to seek care out of province.

Dawn Wilson says when her child was ready to kick his addictions, there wasn’t any help available.

The Warman, Sask., woman said her son, Austin, was using crystal meth and oxycodone, and had overdosed five times between 2012 and 2016.

He detoxed in Saskatoon and Regina multiple times, but needed help from a more intensive program.

“At the time he was finally ready to get help, there was just nothing in the province we could take him to,” Wilson told Global News in an interview.

Read more: Unanswered distress calls: Overdose response requires political will, community members say

Wait times for some treatment programs in Saskatchewan were months long, she said.

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“They could overdose and die by that time, so time was of the essence,” Wilson said.

The family sought care out of province, taking Austin to a private, six-month program in Calgary. 

Now 26, he’s been in recovery ever since.

“He’s living a productive, full life,” Wilson said. “We’re getting to know him again as a sober person, and yeah, I couldn’t be happier.”

System is ‘deeply underfunded’

With long wait times for short-term programs, Wilson said Saskatchewan’s current addictions services aren’t adequate.

Click to play video 'Dealing with the suicide and addiction crisis in Saskatchewan' Dealing with the suicide and addiction crisis in Saskatchewan
Dealing with the suicide and addiction crisis in Saskatchewan

She said she wants to hear fresh ideas from politicians running in the provincial election, set for Oct. 26.

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“If they’re not going to open up public beds and make it a longer stay, then they need to look at bringing in some private, more affordable treatment centres,” Wilson said.

“They need to educate themselves about where things are at now in terms of substance use disorder.”

Read more: Saskatchewan’s first supervised consumption site marks 1 week since opening

On Thursday, the Saskatchewan NDP announced a $2-million commitment to develop a strategy for opioid and crystal meth misuse.

Marie Agioritis, an advocate with Moms Stop the Harm, spoke at the campaign event in Saskatoon.

Agioritis’s 19-year-old son, Kelly, died from a fentanyl overdose in 2015.

“Little has changed in the five years since my Kelly died, other than an escalated body count,” Agioritis said.

Read more: Saskatchewan health minister responds to potential record drug overdose numbers

Her family also sought help out of province.

“(The system) is deeply underfunded and uses archaic, outdated models of care in the treatment for those suffering.”

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The Saskatchewan Party has not made any new election promises about tackling addiction.

A Sask Party spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment on whether the party will announce new addictions funding commitments before election day.

Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction? Here’s a list of resources you can use to get help.

  • A list of addiction services in different communities is available here.
  • To find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Central Saskatchewan, click here.
  • To find a local Alcoholics Anonymous group, click here.
  • The province’s healthline is available 24-7 at 811 or 1-877-800-0002.
  • The problem gambling helpline is available 24-7 at 1-800-306-6789.