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New substance recovery beds, increased outreach coming to Chilliwack

Fraser Health plans a total of 35 beds for men and women in the area; seven-day-a-week outreach nurses
Fraser Health announced new substance use recovery beds and outreach services for Chilliwack this week.

More and much-needed substance use treatment beds and outreach services are coming to Chilliwack to help tackle the ongoing problem marginalized people face dealing with addictions, according to Fraser Health.

The Elizabeth Fry Society’s Rosedale property will be home to Chilliwack’s 12 new intensive residential treatment beds by early May, according to Andy Libbiter, executive director for mental health and substance use for Fraser Health.

“People have a recovery journey and these beds are one step along the way to recovery,” Libbiter told the Progress Wednesday.

The 12 new beds for Chilliwack are part of 55 new beds in the Fraser East region, 147 across Fraser Health and the 500 provincewide created since 2013.

In the last year, 111 new beds have been created across the health authority.

In addition to the 12 beds in Chilliwack, which will be for women, there are 11 new licensed support recovery beds for young women aged 19 to 24 run by the Elizabeth Fry Society in Abbotsford.

In Agassiz, the A:yelexw Women’s Home at Seabird Island will be home to 10 licensed support recovery beds for indigenous women, and the A:yelexw Men’s Home will have 13 beds.

The 12 Chilliwack beds were actually created as of March 31 but are currently located in Surrey and New Westminster while the Elizabeth Fry Society renovates its Rosedale property. Clients in the intensive program at the time of the move will be allowed to transfer to Chilliwack, but as women move through the 60-to-90-day programs openings for local individuals will be created.

“By taking a holistic approach to treatment, patients suffering from complex conditions will have a much better chance at recovery at facilities that are close to their own community,” Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness said in a Fraser Health press release.

In addition to the new beds, new community outreach nurses will increase the capacity of the current outreach team to provide services seven days a week, 12 hours a day.

Currently the team has one full-time nurse and two healthcare workers. The hiring of approximately two more nurses will mean the team will be able to be out helping people with serious mental health or substance use problems every day.

Libbiter said Fraser Health is well aware of the homelessness problem in Chilliwack — an issue across the province — and that’s why the outreach teams are important to help marginalized people.

“Increasingly we are trying to design a portion of our health services to go where people are,” Libbiter said. “And for the homeless that’s often shelters, transitional housing and often in camps.”

The outreach team will work in the community, but also at Chilliwack General Hospital to identify patients with substance use needs who can be safely discharged and better served in a community setting, Libbiter added.

“The expanded outreach team will make a meaningful difference to people in Chilliwack who have mental health or substance use concerns, helping them connect to services that will address their unique needs and ultimately stabilize their lives.” Mayor Sharon Gaetz said.

“The outreach teams will be in a better position to identify patients suffering from mental illness and addictions,” Chilliwack MLA John Martin said. “We can look forward to better outcomes by matching individuals with the care and treatment that most suits their condition.”

As for increased harm reduction, there is nothing specific planned but Libbiter said Fraser Health has a harm reduction approach to health generally.

“We expect all of our contractors and our direct staff to work from a harm reduction approach, meeting people where they are at,” he said.

What often gets overlooked in reporting on harm reduction practices such as needle exchanges, is that the practice is not mutually exclusive to recovery. Harm can be reduced all while people are encouraged to get better.

“What we know from experience is you can ask the question nine times and on the 10th time someone might say, ‘I’m sick and tired about being sick and tired here,’” Libbiter said.

“The alternative is to have a non-harm reduction approach. That makes no sense. We have to respectfully keep engaging people.”