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Treatment on demand: B.C. mom raising awareness and funds for St. Paul’s addictions clinic

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B.C. mom raising awareness and funds for St. Paul's addiction clinic – Dec 18, 2020

A B.C. woman is sharing the story of her daughter’s fatal overdose in the hope of raising money to support addictions treatment on demand.

Terry McLean’s 23-year-old daughter Brett died in October 2018 while she was on a waiting list for an inpatient treatment program.

Brett was prescribed medication for anxiety at a young age, which grew into an addiction to tranquilizers, McLean told Global News.

Read more: ‘It’s taking more lives than COVID,’ says grieving dad of B.C.’s fentanyl epidemic

She suffered her first overdose at just age 14, in what would become a decade-long struggle.

“The benzodiazepines took her down to a place to a shell of a person,” McLean said.

“She had to take so many illegally to stay on top of things … It was becoming very apparent that she wasn’t doing well.”

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McLean said the family tried multiple avenues, but the patchwork and short-term nature of what was available wasn’t sufficient.

“It’s really difficult because every time she would be ready, she would go on suboxone, she was in a youth program, she’d go into a detox centre … but now you’re just out there with no where to go,” she said.

McLean sharing her family’s heartbreak in the hope of ensuring the options that weren’t available to Brett are available to others.

Read more: 5 people a day in B.C. died from an overdose, latest numbers show

That’s where the Rapid Access Addictions Clinic at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver comes in.

“It really provides and on-demand addictions treatment approach,” said Dr. Seonaid Nolan, head of Providence Healthcare’s Interdepartmental Division of Addiction.

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“If someone decides they want to access services for addiction treatment, they can show up at our clinic and be seen the same day by a very comprehensive interdisciplinary team.”

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At the clinic, Nolan said patients can see a doctor immediately and get started on medications, but also speak with social workers who can help stabilize their immediate needs and connect them with a longer-term care provider.

In the four years it’s been up and running, the clinic has served more than 8,000 patients, more than two thirds of whom Nolan said have opioid addiction issues.

Read more: After a 15-year-old’s opioid overdose death, B.C. looks at giving parents more rights

“I will say that there have been days that we’ve had to close our doors early – because we have some many people in the waiting room that we can’t keep up with demand.”

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The clinic is one of the programs supported by St. Paul’s Hospital’s Lights of Hope campaign, and McLean is hoping Brett’s story will encourage people to donate.

“All of these programs need more money,” she said. “This is really important when people are in the completive state of treatment.

“People need to see someone now. It’s no good to wait three weeks from now or a month from now when you’ve sunk back down into it. It’s when you’re ready, in the moment, that people need access.”

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