When the late Red Adair, the famed oil well firefighter who doused well blowouts around the globe, tackled a well blaze, extinguishing the flames was just the first step.
The problem wasn’t over until the source of the fire – leaking oil or gas – had been stemmed by capping the well.
Alberta – the country’s oil and gas capital – is taking a similar approach to tackling the problem of opioid addiction.
As part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, the province is putting $25 million toward building five recovery communities designed to support the health, wellness and long-term recovery of Albertans struggling with drug addiction. Red Deer was announced July 18 as the first to receive $5 million in funding for a 75-bed recovery community, and Saturday, two more $5-million investments were unveiled for recovery communities in southern Alberta, involving 75 beds on the Blood Reserve and 50 beds in Lethbridge County.
In announcing the investment on Saturday at Standoff, Premier Jason Kenney also said the province will expand medical detox access in the region by earmarking $1 million to upgrade 16 detox beds at the Foothills Centre in Fort Macleod and spending $1.2 million to add up to 15 detox and transition beds in Lethbridge.
Kenney said the recovery communities, also known as therapeutic communities, represent a new, state-of-the-art approach to addiction treatment and recovery based on a treatment model that has proven successful in 65 countries. The model involves a holistic approach for people who struggle with substance abuse, trauma and mental-health issues.
That treatment approach makes sense in view of the fact research shows that substance abuse, trauma and mental-health issues are often closely linked. The Canadian Mental Health Association website notes that people who experience a mental illness are more likely than others to also have a substance use problem, and that people who experience problems with alcohol or drug use are also more likely to be diagnosed with a mental illness.
People dealing with a mentalhealth issue or trauma can be easily caught in a web of substance abuse as a coping mechanism, but it’s a defence response that ultimately produces more problems. This investment by the province is aimed at the root of addiction by helping the addicts deal with what is fuelling their substance dependence, whether it be alcohol or drugs – in effect, capping the well instead of just pouring water on the flames. It’s an approach that is more likely to find support from opponents of the supervised consumption site model, which critics viewed as essentially giving the addicts matches with which to keep the fires burning – fires which were causing damage throughout the community.
This new approach was developed after consultation with an expert panel which Kenney said included “addictions experts, people in recovery from addiction, people who have lost family members to addiction, academics, scholars, medical experts, lawenforcement personnel and folks from the business community.”
As Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman noted, it’s “a new way of doing things.”
Citizens of southern Alberta will be hoping it produces new results.
This editorial originated in the Lethbridge Herald.