Alberta Health Services pausing mental illness and addiction program referrals

Click to play video: 'Edmonton family upset to learn addictions program being put on pause' Edmonton family upset to learn addictions program being put on pause
WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton family is feeling hopeless after being told a mental health and addictions program is being put on pause. Nicole Stillger explains why – Sep 23, 2021

It’s been a hard road for Marie Lafleur and her family.

Her son struggles with mental illness and addiction. His only real support right now is medication.

“We, as a family, have been through a lot — hospitalization, police arrest, calling 24/7 lines, being punched, being verbally abused,” she explained.  “We gave up a few times.”

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They’ve tried many programs to help the young man in his 20s, but the one at the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka was a game-changer.

“It’s a dual program for mental illness and addiction,” Lafleur said. “It was very good for him. It was the best program he had.”

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Lafleur was relieved when she found out her son would be going back next week, but then she got a phone call saying the program is paused indefinitely.

“I was so appalled that I was numb,” she said. “For a person who is struggling with mental illness, being rejected after asking for help is extremely difficult.”

Lafleur was not directly told why it’s paused, only that there are COVID-related concerns.

She wonders why this is happening in the middle of a mental health and addiction crisis.

“Our son could die tomorrow if he decides to use and he meets the wrong person that sells him something — he might die,” she said.

Alberta Health Services said it needs staff from the facility to supplement a provincial system strained by COVID-19, so it’s “temporarily pausing some community referrals to the Concurrent Disorders Enhanced Services program (previously known as the dual diagnosis program).”

AHS told Global News the site is dealing with COVID-19 and some inpatients will be transferred to non-acute spaces.

“Once that is complete, we will review whether we can accommodate some community referrals.”

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AHS is also temporarily pausing admissions to another adult unit that provides recovery support programming for those with stabilized mental illness.

“If this happens, we will transition patients to a virtual model of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Program,” AHS said. “We will work closely with patients and families to ensure they continue to get the care and support they need.”

Lafleur called her family’s situation devastating.

“The hope is not there anymore,” she said. “It’s a catastrophe for us to have the door slammed in our face a few days before he could go into the program.”

She said until it comes back, they are out of options.

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