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Okanagan man shares personal story to highlight urgent need for more addiction treatment beds

Click to play video: 'Need for more addiction treatment beds grows amid pandemic' Need for more addiction treatment beds grows amid pandemic
Wait lists for addiction treatment beds in this province can be lengthy but the demand has grown even more during the pandemic. In the North Okanagan--one government subsidized facility is desperately hoping for more funding to open up additional space for those struggling with addiction. Treatment that for many can be a matter of life or death and something one Vernon man knows all too well. Klaudia Van Emmerik reports. – Feb 3, 2021

When Jacob Philp arrived at Bill’s Place in Vernon in February 2017, he was in a bad place.

“I was hopeless and I was broken,” Philp told Global News.

The 33-year old man was heavily addicted to drugs. He had been jailed and was even homeless for a couple of years.

“I had been using fentanyl, meth, heroin,” Philp said. “I had been overdosing like lots. My friends around me were dying. I was constantly sick.

“I had no way to fund my addiction, so I was stealing and committing crimes to pay for it.”

Read more: Overburdened, under-resourced: Penticton Mounties overwhelmed by call volumes, top cop says

Bill’s Place is a 20-bed. government-subsidized addictions treatment facility operated by a not-for-profit organization, Turning Points Collaborative Society.

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Philp spent eight months at the facility, going through programs offered there.

“I would be dead if it wasn’t for what I learned here,” he said.

He got clean and completely turned his life around.

“Today, I have an amazing career. I get to help people who are struggling with the things I struggled with … homelessness, addiction,” he said.

“I’m married. I found my wife here in Vernon. We have two beautiful children. We own a house.”

Click to play video: 'Knitting his way through addictions recovery' Knitting his way through addictions recovery
Knitting his way through addictions recovery – Dec 23, 2020

Philp said he also found self-love.

“I love the person that I am today, and I have this inner peace that I’ve never had in my entire life,” he said.

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He credits it all to Bill’s Place, but the wait for a bed at the facility can be anywhere from two to four months — and that can be too long for those ready to be helped.

“There’s a brief window where they sort of see themselves, where they’re at in their lives and think you know what, I’m in trouble and I need help,” said Brad Houghton, manager of addictions services at Bill’s Place.

“And so in that window of opportunity or that moment of clarity, if there’s not a bed available a lot of time that goes away and people just keep on struggling.”

Click to play video: 'Neighbours of a future permanent injection site in downtown Kelowna disappointed that Interior Health didn’t advise them of its plans' Neighbours of a future permanent injection site in downtown Kelowna disappointed that Interior Health didn’t advise them of its plans
Neighbours of a future permanent injection site in downtown Kelowna disappointed that Interior Health didn’t advise them of its plans – Jan 29, 2021

To help shorten the wait time, Turning Points Collaborative Society has applied for a three-year, $750,000 grant to open eight additional beds.

Houghton said the need for those extra beds is even more critical due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is impacting people’s mental health, especially those struggling with addiction.

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“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of phone calls and people reaching out for their loved ones to get help,” Houghton said.

Read more: Canadian cannabis users report increased use over pandemic, worrying experts

Houghton said it’s difficult having to tell people that a bed is not available.

“It’s super uncomfortable to be in that position, but we just don’t have the bed space,” he said.

“With the addition of eight beds, that would be a huge relief not just to us but to the people struggling with substance use disorder and it’s a huge need right across the province.”

In an email to Global News, the Ministry for Mental Health and Addictions said that the grant process is now complete and recipients will be announced next week.

While the ministry would not come specifically about Bill’s Place, it did hint the grant request looked promising by stating it “looks forward to sharing good news for people in the Okanagan.”

Click to play video: 'Interior Health records record number of drug deaths in October' Interior Health records record number of drug deaths in October
Interior Health records record number of drug deaths in October – Nov 26, 2020

Philp sure hopes more beds can be created because he knows firsthand how life-changing it can be.

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“It does cost money, I know,” Philp said. “My wife and my daughter, their family, my family, they couldn’t put a price on it.

“There’s no price. How can you put a price on something like that?”

Bill’s Place opened in 2013 with about 40 people going through the program every year.

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